F-1 Apollo Mission Engines Recovered From Ocean Floor

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

From the farthest reaches of manned space exploration to deep below the ocean’s surface, a soon-to-be restored pair of F-1 engines used in the Apollo space program represent one of the more incredible recoveries of the modern era. Wait…wait a minute…what are all these claw marks?!?


Amazon CEO and all-around great guy Jeff Benzos — who, incidentally, can probably afford to buy all of the oceans and outer space — has had his Bezos Expedition team surveying the Atlantic Ocean floor in search for the crashed-and-burned discarded ruins from one of the most exciting times in U.S. and humanity’s history. In the last few weeks, the team has recovered “many prime pieces” of two F-1 engines whose mission status can’t be identified just yet due to damaged serial numbers. While the differences between the missions themselves vary greatly, all of the engines met the same 5,000 mile-per-hour re-entry to a flaming, ocean-pummeling death. That this much of the twisted metal is even salvageable is a testament to the design and construction.

“Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible,” writes Bezos in his insightful blog post. The following video should instill the same kind of humbling awe for the ocean depths, just mixed in with some mild terror that years of cheap horror movie scares has implanted into the psyche.

If the eerie silence is too disconcerting, Bezos’ calming words should help.

The technology used for the recovery is in its own way as otherworldly as the Apollo technology itself. The Remotely Operated Vehicles worked at a depth of more than 14,000 feet, tethered to our ship with fiber optics for data and electric cables transmitting power at more than 4,000 volts. We on the team were often struck by poetic echoes of the lunar missions. The buoyancy of the ROVs looks every bit like microgravity. The blackness of the horizon. The gray and colorless ocean floor. Only the occasional deep sea fish broke the illusion.

I can’t help but wonder what that fish tastes like smothered in tartar sauce. “We’re excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing,” Bezos writes, without realizing that the thing all this will inspire will probably be an unneeded Abyss remake.

“Finally, I want to thank NASA,” Bezos said in closing. “They extended every courtesy and every helping hand – all of NASA’s interactions were characterized by plain old common sense, something which we all know is impressive and uncommon. We’re excited to be bringing a couple of your F-1s home.” And we’re more than excited to see them, even if they’re still possibly covered in space monster germs.