Many people aren’t really aware of what happens when we launch something into space. Engines are built to fire in stages, continuously propelling a craft into space. During this process, the parts from the previous stage of the engine are released and it either falls back down to Earth or drifts away into space depending on when in the process the release happens.
During the twelve minute ride from the surface to the edge of space, the Saturn V rocket burned through multiple F-1 engines across several stages. The discarded parts of those engines returned toEarth and plummeted into the ocean, and for the longest time it was assumed they would never be seen again. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wanted to change that, and launched an expedition nearly a year ago to recover parts of the Saturn V from the sea bed.
In March 2012, Bezos announced that deep ocean sonar had detected what they believed to be parts of the five F-1 engines from Apollo 11 some 14,000 feet down. His goal was to go down there, photograph what he could, and recover anything that had survived the 40+ year tomb these parts had been sent to.
In his recent blog update, Bezos shares his experiences on the bottom of the ocean, and offers up a gallery of photos showing both recovered engine parts and images of Saturn V pieces that will take much more time to fully recover.
At least as far as the core purpose of the mission goes, Bezos was successful. There’s still plenty to do down there, however, so it is highly unlikely that this is the last update we’ll see from the project.
There’s been enough recovered so far to display two of the five F-1 engines that made up the launch engines of Saturn V. The plan now is to restore the engines and treat them to prevent further corrosion, after which time they will be placed on display. It’s unclear where exactly they will be on display, or how long the restoration will take, but that information will likely be made available once a proper exhibit for the engines has been created.
In his post, Bezos explained that it was his goal to recover a piece of something that had inspired him as a young boy and put it on display to help inspire other. Mission accomplished, I’d say.