The thrust chamber from the Apollo 11 mission, found on the Atlantic Ocean floor by Bezos Expeditions. (Credit: Bezos Expeditions)

A piece of an Apollo 11 F-1 engine found on the Atlantic Ocean floor by Bezos Expeditions. Photo courtesy Bezos Expeditions

On July 16, 1969, the world watched as the historic Apollo 11 mission took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, which of course ended with Neil Armstrong – and greater mankind – walking on the moon.

What the world didn’t watch – or at least realize – was that the five F-1 engines used to launch the Saturn V spacecraft into orbit would make a violent descent back to earth, disappearing into the vast Atlantic Ocean as NASA had planned, never to be seen again… or so they thought.

On March 28, 2012, billionaire founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, made the announcement that his team at Bezos Expeditions had located the Apollo 11 F-1 engines lying some 14,000 feet below the surface and were making plans to raise them.

One year later, Bezos says they have done just that.

“What an incredible adventure,” Bezos wrote today from onboard the Seabed Worker, an 88m multi-purpose support vessel owned by Swire Seabed. “We are right now onboard the Seabed Worker headed back to Cape Canaveral after finishing three weeks at sea, working almost 3 miles below the surface. We found so much. 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. We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible.”

Onboard the Seabed Worker. Photo courtesy Bezos Expeditions

Onboard the Seabed Worker. Photo courtesy Bezos Expeditions

Bezos continued:

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. The objects themselves are gorgeous.

The technology used for the recovery is in its own way as otherworldly as the Apollo technology itself. The Remotely Operated Vehicles worked at a depth of more than 14,000 feet, tethered to our ship with fiber optics for data and electric cables transmitting power at more than 4,000 volts. We on the team were often struck by poetic echoes of the lunar missions. The buoyancy of the ROVs looks every bit like microgravity. The blackness of the horizon. The gray and colorless ocean floor. Only the occasional deep sea fish broke the illusion.

We’re bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. The upcoming restoration will stabilize the hardware and prevent further corrosion. 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.

Since the engines remain the property of NASA, Bezos only asks that NASA make them available to the Smithsonian Museum, and perhaps one to “the excellent Museum of Flight here in Seattle,” for all to see.

Fittingly, Jeff concluded today’s announcement with a thank you to NASA:

Finally, I want to thank NASA. They extended every courtesy and every helping hand – all of NASA’s interactions were characterized by plain old common sense, something which we all know is impressive and uncommon. We’re excited to be bringing a couple of your F-1s home.

We should add that no public funds were used in the expedition to locate and raise the engines. It was funded privately.

More about the expedition to raise the engines, including photos of the engines themselves, can be found on the Bezos Expeditions website:

Tagged with →  
Share →
  • steve from virginia

    Typical baby-boomer waste … millions spent to retrieve useless junk for ‘nostalgia’. Couldn’t Bezos just go to an Eagles’ concert instead?

    The self-indulgent boomers cannot exit the stage soon enough IMO.

    • Don M

      To Steve from VA:

      Yeah where would we be without the entrepreneurial spirit and innovations of private enterprise? The founder of Amazon is under no obligation to spend his billions any way society deems appropriate. This is what is known as freedom, something we still enjoy in the USA.

      And while you are on your soap box complaining about how this guy is spending his money. Have you even taken the time to go to their web-site to look at the privately funded contributions made to deep sea research?

      • Bağımsız Yunanlılar No7

        “what is known as freedom, something we still enjoy in the USA”…Damn…you really believe that…? Brainwashed yanks…

    • shelton

      Jeff Bezos is so far from a baby bommer. Baby bomers where the kiss of the ww2 era not the kids ofthe flower power era. And why do you give a fuck about how someone spends there own money, I bet yoi think he should give his fortune to someone less fortunate. If everyone took care there own shit it would be a much happier world.

  • Mark

    Congratulations Mr. Bezos. Since there is nothing better to do w/ all your money–like cure cancer, feed the hungry, or educate the world’s children–why not spend it on a frivolous venture like raising 40 year old junk from the bottom of the ocean. Sheesh. . .

    • http://NONE PAUL


      • Mark


  • joe fish

    God bless Bezos for spending his money, employing many people supporting the economy, whether it be local or abroad. Modern day exploration at its finest.

  • sglover

    The engine in the photos is in astonishingly good condition for a metal object that’s spent decades in seawater — **after** striking the ocean at high (hundreds of mph?) speed.

  • Danmarks beste trylle shop

    You’re really a good webmaster. The website loading velocity is incredible. It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece. you have performed a excellent job in this matter!

  • Best Watches Man, Buy Cheap Watches Man With Amazon Promotion Codes

    Hello, Neat post. There is an issue along with your website in web explorer, could test this? IE nonetheless is the market leader and a big component to folks will pass over your great writing due to this problem.

Sign up for the gCaptain Newsletter!

Over 32,000 people receive the gCaptain email newsletter every single day. Get the maritime and offshore industry headlines that matter sent straight to your inbox. Or LIKE us on Facebook!

We will not share your email address with anybody for any reason