space oceans apollo saturn_v rockets exploration nasa engines engineering
Historic Apollo Rocket Engines Recovered From Deep Ocean Grave


by Michael Keller

A salvage crew funded by the founder of Amazon has recovered the twisted remains of rocket engines once used to launch the Apollo program into space.

Using underwater remotely operated vehicles, the crew spent three weeks pulling the wreckage up from a watery grave nearly three miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

“We’ve seen an underwater wonderland – an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program,” Jeff Bezos, CEO and Chairman of Amazon, wrote on the blog for his Bezos Expeditions enterprise.


Click through to see more photos and a video.


(Thrust chamber and fuel manifold. Courtesy Bezos Expeditions.)

Still considered a masterwork of engineering, the F-1 rocket engine could deliver 1.5 million pounds of thrust and 32 million horsepower, the most powerful single-chamber liquid-fueled rocket engine ever built.

Five were strapped to the bottom of the massive Saturn V rocket to, among other things, power Apollo 11 out of Earth’s atmosphere on its historic mission to the moon and, at the end of its service, loft Spacelab into orbit. Each F-1 burned 6,000 pounds of rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen per second.


(Turbine. Courtesy Bezos Expeditions.)

Bezos and his team located the field of F-1 debris more than a year ago using deep-sea sonar and began making plans to bring pieces back up to the surface. “We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in - they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years,” Bezos wrote at the time of discovery. “On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.”

The results of the Bezos team’s recovery efforts are enough F-1 components to reconstruct two engines for display. While still the property of NASA, Bezos has stated his hopes that the agency would choose to display one at the Smithsonian and the other at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.


(F-1 rocket engines in action on May 14, 1973, lifting a Saturn V that was carrying Skylab. Courtesy Wikipedia.)

Top Image: F-1 thrust chamber found by Bezos Expeditions on the seafloor.

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