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Billionaire Jeff Bezos recovers Apollo rocket engines from ocean floor

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 21st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Components from the Saturn 5 rocket engines that powered NASA's Apollo moon missions off the launch pad have been recovered by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos in a startling underwater expedition. It marks the first time in four decades that the engines have seen daylight after they dropped to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Bezos described the three-week expedition on his Web site as "an incredible adventure."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "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," Bezos said.

Bezos announced last year that deep-sea sonar scans had located the first-stage engines that were used for the historic Apollo 11 launch in 1969. That historic launch sent astronauts on their way to the moon's surface for the first time. The first stage of the three-stage Saturn 5 was abandoned once its fuel was spent, falling into the Atlantic Ocean.

Bezos and the salvage team headed out into the Atlantic three weeks ago after months of planning on the Seabed Worker, a ship that has previously played a role in recovering sunken treasures.

"While I spent a reasonable chunk of time in my cabin emailing and working, it didn't keep me from getting to know the team," Bezos wrote.

The hardware was preserved in "gorgeous" condition at a depth of more than 14,000 feet, Bezos said. It was reportedly difficult to make out the serial numbers on the hardware. Confirmation of the Apollo 11 connection will have to wait until the parts are more closely examined.

Remotely operated vehicles recovered enough components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. Bezos said the ship was now on its way back to Cape Canaveral, Florida to offload the artifacts.

The restoration will take place at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

"The upcoming restoration will stabilize the hardware and prevent further corrosion," Bezos said. "We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000 mile per hour re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface. We're excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing."

Bezos and NASA had worked out where the artifacts would be going. The first option would go to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs told journalists. The second engine would be offered to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, the hometown for Bezos and Amazon.com.

"While we have no role in the restoration, we are providing assistance to help identify the hardware through our various history offices and field centers," Jacobs said.

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