Amazon founder recovers Apollo engines with the help of Irish scuba diver

22 Mar 2013

Heat exchanger from an Apollo F-1 engine onboard the Seabed Worker. Image via Bezos Expeditions

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and a team of deep-sea explorers have salvaged what remains of two rocket engines that powered man’s first trip to the moon from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Writing from aboard the Seabed Worker, Bezos describes how the crew spent three weeks at sea exploring to depths of 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) underwater where they discovered two Saturn V first-stage rocket engines believed to be from NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.

The F-1 engines have been ravaged by their 5,000mph re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, impact with the ocean, and decades spent under the sea but, following their recovery and restoration, Bezos reckons the components discovered will make for a fine display.

Golden wonder

Bezos uses his latest update from the trip to thank the many people that made it a success, and a special shout-out is reserved for Irish scuba diver Rory Golden. No stranger to the ocean’s depths, Golden has already explored the wreckage of the famous Titanic twice and is the one to have discovered the main ship’s wheel.

Golden proved indispensable for spotting hidden artefacts this time around, too. “Nobody could spot faint markings and mentally map twisted, corroded, 90pc concealed parts like Rory,” wrote Bezos as he thanked Golden for keeping the team on the right track and also for his “Irish wisdom”.

F-1 engine thrust chamber pictured underwater (image via Bezos Expeditions)

F-1 engine thrust chamber underwater. Image via Bezos Expeditions

Photographs were taken of the discoveries on the ocean floor while the heavy lifting to the surface has been achieved using remotely operated vehicles capable of working at depths of 4,267 metres (14,000 feet).

Missing serial numbers make it difficult to identify which mission these engines are from, though it remains possible that they are two of the five that blasted astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins into space on 16 July 1969.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.