Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he has located the F-1 rocket engines that launched Apollo 11's mission to the moon in 1969 – and he plans to raise at least one from the ocean floor.
Announcing the news on his Bezos Expeditions website, the billionaire said his team had found the five engines in the Atlantic Ocean, at a depth of 14,000ft, using advanced sonar scanning equipment.
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“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. On the other hand, they're made of tough stuff, so we'll see," Bezos said.
His team did not elaborate on the exact location of the engines, how they identified them as being from Apollo 11, nor what the cost of the privately funded recovery operation is likely to be.
As a five-year-old, Bezos watched on television as Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the lunar surface, and he credits this experience with being “a big contributor” to his passions for science, engineering, and exploration.
The F-1 engines, which generated about 32 million horsepower and burned 6,000lb (2,720kg) of rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen per second, were used to send the giant Saturn V rocket into orbit, the Associated Press reported.
They were 19ft tall, and burned for just a few minutes before being jettisoned, and falling to back to Earth.
The engines remain the property of NASA, which is waiting to learn more about Bezos's discovery, the AP reported. In a statement, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said:
"There has always been great interest in artifacts from the early days of space exploration and his announcement only adds to the enthusiasm of those interested in NASA's history."
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While the Apollo 11 command module is display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, Bezos said he planned to ask NASA for permission to have one of the engines displayed in the Museum of Flight in his home city of Seattle.
Bezos' announcement comes days after film director James Cameron traveled in a mini-sub to the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on the planet, in the western Pacific Ocean.