For more than four decades, the powerful engines that helped boost the Apollo 11 mission to the moon have rested in the Atlantic. Now internet billionaire and space enthusiast Jeff Bezos wants to raise at least one of them to the surface.
An undersea expedition spearheaded by Bezos used sonar to find what he said were the F-1 engines located 4267m deep. The Amazon.com chief executive and founder said he is drawing up plans to recover the sunken engines, part of the mighty Saturn V rocket that launched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on their moon mission.
The five engines, which produced nearly 3.49 million kg of thrust, dropped into the sea as planned minutes after liftoff in 1969. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon.
"We don't know yet what condition these engines might be in," he wrote. "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."
Bezos acknowledged the engines were the property of Nasa, but said he hoped they will be displayed in museums.
Nasa expressed excitement about the find. The space agency said it has not been formally contacted by Bezos and waited for more information.
No timetable has been set for the recovery. When it happens, it will undoubtedly take longer to hoist the 5.5m engines off the sea floor than the 2 minutes it took for them to power off the launch pad.
The sea floor is littered with spent rockets and flight parts from missions.
In 2009, a private company salvaged Gus Grissom's Mercury capsule that accidentally sank in the Atlantic after splashdown in 1961. It was restored and displayed at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.
It was not clear when Bezos' team spotted the Apollo engines. Bezos offered few details about the discovery and did not say how he knew the engines were from Apollo 11. The cost of the recovery was not disclosed, but Bezos said it will be done with private funds.