NASA’s chief hopes that Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has “all the luck in the world” recovering one or more of the engines that launched the first manned Moon landing mission from the ocean floor where the dot-com billionaire recently discovered them.
“I would like to thank Jeff Bezos for his communication with NASA informing us of his historic find,” Charles, NASA Administrator, said in a statement issued March 30. “I salute him and his entire team on this bold venture.”
Bezos revealed March 28 that his privately funded expedition had been successful locating what he believes to be the five massive F-1 engines that powered a Saturn 5 rocket off the launch pad with Apollo 11 crew members Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins aboard.
The engines, still attached to the rocket’s first stage, had been purposely dropped into the Atlantic Ocean after they had flown 61 kilometers high and burnt through their fuel supply. NASA had calculated where the stage impacted the water but considered the hardware lost once it had sunk to the seafloor.
Bezos’ expedition used state-of-the-art deep sea sonar to locate the Apollo 11 engines lying nearly 4,300 meters below the surface. He is now planning on attempting to raise one or more so they can be publicly displayed.
“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 on his Expeditions website. “On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.”
Bezos said that the engine recovery effort will be privately financed, foregoing public funding. Despite his investment, which some salvage experts have said could run into the millions of dollars, he will not be able to keep the fruit of his labor.
“NASA does retain ownership of any artifacts recovered,” Bolden stated, “and would likely offer one of the Saturn V F-1 engines to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.”
Bezos acknowledged as much in his own announcement but made a request should his team be successful raising more than one engine.
“If the Smithsonian declines or if a second [F-1] engine is recovered, we will work to ensure an engine or other artifacts are available for display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, as Jeff requested in his correspondence with my office,” Bolden said. “I have directed our staff to begin work to exercise all appropriate authorities to provide a smooth and expeditious disposition of any flight hardware recovered.”