Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of online retail giant Amazon.com, said his group ‘Bezos Expeditions’ used remote-control submarines working at depths of over 14,000 feet to bring parts of two Apollo F-1 engines to the surface. Bezos said his team, which also included members of his family, spent three weeks at sea on a large recovery vessel.
“Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration,” he wrote in a blog entry about the trip.
NASA, which provided assistance to the effort, congratulated Bezos on the success of the mission.
“This is a historic find and I congratulate the team for its determination and perseverance in the recovery of these important artifacts of our first efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit. We look forward to the restoration of these engines by the Bezos team and applaud Jeff’s desire to make these historic artifacts available for public display,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement.
The remote submarines used in the expedition were connected to the ship by miles of fiber optic and electric power cables so they could be controlled by pilots at the surface. The team used sonar to search for the engine fragments on the sea floor.
In his blog posting, Bezos made it clear he didn’t neglect his company duties during the ocean voyage. The executive wrote he spent a “reasonable amount of time in my cabin emailing and working.”
The Amazon executive has a deep interest in space travel. He has also founded and heads Blue Origin, a private firm that is working to build reusable rocket-powered space vehicles.
The F-1 engine was the first-stage engine of the Saturn V rocket, which powered NASA’s Apollo missions. Each is 5.8m tall and 3.7m wide, weighing over 8.2 tonnes, and they were used in clusters of five.
NASA said it is the most powerful single-nozzle, liquid-fueled rocket engine ever developed, with more thrust than three of the main engines used to lift the space shuttle. NASA said it is using the F-1 to help design its next generation rocket, the Space Launch System.