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Engines Found on Ocean Bottom Belonged to Apollo 11

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Jul 21, 2013 08:25 PM EDT
Saturn V carrying Apollo 11
The Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 spaceflight is launched from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969 in this handout photo courtesy of NASA. Space enthusiast and entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has found the rocket motors used to send the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon and plans to mount a recovery expedition soon, the Amazon.com CEO and founder reported on a blog post. The five F-1 engines were fired up on July 16, 1969, sending the massive Saturn 5 rocket on its way to the moon. The motors burned out a few minutes after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center and tumbled into the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo : Reuters)

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos announced on his blog Friday that the rocket engines retrieved from the ocean's bottom back in March did in fact belong to the Apollo 11 spacecraft.

"When we stepped off the Seabed Worker four months ago in Port Canaveral, we had enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines," Bezos writes. "We brought back thrust chambers, gas generators, injectors, heat exchangers, turbines, fuel manifolds and dozens of other artifacts -- all simply gorgeous and a striking testament to the Apollo program."

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What was missing, however, was mission identification.

The mystery was finally solved when one of the conservators scanning the device came upon the numbers "2044" stenciled in black paint on the side of one of the thrust chambers, which correlates to NASA number 6044 -- the number for F-1 Engine #5 Apollo 11.

"The intrepid conservator kept digging for more evidence, and after removing more corrosion at the base of the same thrust chamber, until he found it -- "Unit No. 2044" -- stamped into the metal surface," Bezos explains. 

The find comes just before the 44th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrins's first steps on the Moon's surface -- an achievement the F-1 engines made possible.

"I was five years old when I watched Apollo 11 unfold on television, and without any doubt it was a big contributor to my passions for science, engineering, and exploration," Bezos wrote back when the engine was first retrieved.

Retrieved from some 14,000 feet deep under water, the machinery that can weigh as much as 20,000 pounds was discovered using deep-sea sonar. Overseeing the search was Rory Golden, one of the two men credited with finding Titanic.

Bezos calls the technology used in the process, including a ship equipped with fiber optics transmitting power at over 4,000 volts, "otherworldly" in and of itself.

Going forward, the entrepreneur says he is determined to maintain the authenticity of the engines, explaining that plans to restore both of them are simply designed to prevent further erosion.

To see pictures of the engines, click here.

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