Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has claimed success in his mission to recover Apollo 11 moon mission engines that plunged into the ocean decades ago.
“We found so much,” Bezos said in a blog posting en route to land after three weeks at sea for his Bezos Expeditions project.
“We’ve seen an underwater wonderland — an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program.”
Bezos said many of the original serial numbers from the engines have been eroded, making identification difficult, but that his team would conduct a restoration.
“The objects themselves are gorgeous,” he said.
“We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. 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.”
Bezos said his team would have enough major components to create displays of two flown F-1 engines, and that a restoration would stabilise the hardware and prevent further corrosion.
“We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000 mile per hour re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface,” he said. “We’re excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing.”
It was not immediately clear when or where the objects might be displayed, but Bezos said when he launched the project last year that he hoped they could be viewed at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
The engines that rocketed astronaut Neil Armstrong and his crew toward the moon in 1969 were located deep in the Atlantic Ocean using sophisticated sonar equipment.
Bezos used private funds to raise the F-1 engines from their resting places 14,000 feet (4,267 metres) below the surface of the ocean, even though he has maintained that they remain the property of NASA.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden welcomed the news.
“This is a historic find and I congratulate the team for its determination and perseverance in the recovery of these important artefacts of our first efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit,” Bolden said in a statement.
“We look forward to the restoration of these engines by the Bezos team and applaud Jeff’s desire to make these historic artefacts available for public display.”