Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Friday that two rocket engines his team of researchers found earlier this year came from the Apollo 11 mission that put the first astronauts on the moon. The news was timely — Saturday is the anniversary of the historic first moon landing on July 20, 1969.
"Forty-four years ago tomorrow Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and now we have recovered a critical technological marvel that made it all possible," Bezos wrote on his Bezos Expeditions blog.
The salvage team fished the two F-1 rocket engines off the bottom of the Atlantic in March. They knew they belonged to an Apollo-era Saturn V rocket, but weren't sure they would be able to determine which one, since the serial numbers appeared to have been worn away by four decades of saltwater corrosion. Take a look at the video of the underwater find:
Then one of the conservators, using a black light and a special lens filter, noticed the number "2044" stenciled in black paint on one of the thrust chambers. That number, Bezos said, corresponded to NASA number 6044, the serial number for F-1 Engine No. 5 from the Apollo 11 mission. A little more work by the team at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center to remove corrosion uncovered a metal stamp that said "Unit No 2044," further confirming the ID.
The news gave chills to space junkies. "Welcome home, you fantastic chunk of metal," wrote Eric Mack at CNET.
For those who remember the excitement of the Apollo missions, this is indeed a welcome blast from the past. I got to watch the only night launch, Apollo 17. It turned the darkness into daylight, and made anything seem possible. Hard to believe we haven't been back.
Here's what that launch looked like: