Long lost Apollo 11 engines found at the bottom of the sea

Five of the most powerful rocket engines ever constructed have been lying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, ever since they were cast off approximately 2 minutes and 41 seconds after doing their part to send Apollo 11 to the moon. Jeff Bezos (that Jeff Bezos) has managed to find them again, and he's planning to bring them back to the surface.

The F-1 engine is still the hands-down most powerful single-chamber liquid-fueled rocket engine ever developed. They put out 1.5 million pounds of thrust (each), and a separate 55,000 horsepower turbine engine was required just to feed each engine enough fuel to keep going, nearly 700 gallons of liquid oxygen and kerosene per second.

Every Saturn V boasted five F-1 engines in its first stage. Combined, these engines sucked down 4.7 million pounds of propellant and boosted their payload to a speed of 6,100 mph and an altitude of 42 miles. Their job done, the F-1s instantly turned into very complicated, very expensive weights, and so they were unceremoniously dropped into the Atlantic and the Saturn V continued on its way. This picture shows one of the last good looks we got at Apollo 11's first stage and its F-1s:


And that was pretty much the end of Apollo 11's five F-1s, until Jeff Bezos announced yesterday that he'd managed to find them. From his blog:

I'm excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we're making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor. 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.

We should reiterate that the F-1 engines were not designed to be recovered and reused, so as far as NASA was concerned, once they did their job the engines were lost. It's probably not good to get your hopes up about what Bezos might manage to pull up, but as a objects of inspiration, even fragments would be valuable artifacts.

By the way, if you're of a generation unfamiliar with the Apollo Program and the Saturn V click here to see the Apollo 11 liftoff in slow motion with a beautiful sountrack, an apropos contrast to five F-1 engines unleashing literal hell.

Bezos Expeditions, via SciAm

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook