On the eve of the 44th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon, a piece of their historic legacy has been ID’ed here on Earth. Billionaire Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has confirmed that the rocket engines he picked up from the ocean floor five months ago belonged to Apollo 11.
More than a year ago, Bezos announced a mission to try and recover the mighty F-1 engines, which each delivered 1.5 million pounds of thrust to the Saturn V rocket that carried men to the lunar surface. After delivering the Apollo astronauts to space, the engines crashed back to Earth and lay dormant on the ocean floor for more than 40 years, reaching a serious state of decay. After trawling the Atlantic,Bezos’ team announced that they had recovered the artifacts and returned them to land for preservation and eventual display at a museum.
But with the engines warped and covered in rust, it was impossible to say precisely which of the Apollo missions they had come from. Bezos had always been aiming to find relics from Apollo 11 because he said the mission had inspired his passion in science and engineering as a child.
During the painstaking cleaning process, a conservator at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center using black light and a special lens filter to examine the relic pieces noticed a tiny number — 2044. That figure is a Rocketdyne serial number that correlates to NASA number 6044, the serial number for F-1 Engine #5 from Apollo 11.
Bezos is thrilled with the news. On his blog, he wrote that “44 years ago tomorrow Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and now we have recovered a critical technological marvel that made it all possible.”
Now that they have identified the important mission these engines came from, workers can continue their conservation efforts. In addition to getting them cleaned and ready for display, the Cosmosphere is scanning all components to build a 3-D CAD model. Once that is finished, the artifacts will be shown at museums around the U.S., though exactly which ones is yet to be determined.