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Bezos Expeditions recovers pieces of Apollo 11 rockets

Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos sent a crew into the Atlantic Ocean to haul up engines from the mission that landed the first humans on the moon. Here's what they brought back.

The thrust chamber from the Apollo 11 mission, found on the Atlantic Ocean floor by Bezos Expeditions.
Bezos Expeditions

A year after discovering rockets from the Apollo 11 moon mission on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, Bezos Expeditions has recovered "many prime pieces" of the engines, Jeff Bezos blogged today.

Amazon's billionaire founder and chief executive wrote that the crew of the ship Seabed Worker spent three weeks at sea, working almost three miles below the surface to pull up the various piece of the engines.

"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 wrote. "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."

Last March, Bezos reported that, using deep sea sonar, his crew had discovered the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface. At the time, he said he hoped recovering the rockets would inspire kids to invent and explore just as the NASA missions inspired him. The Apollo 11 mission was the one that put the first humans on the moon -- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin -- on July 20, 1969.

Bezos is one of a handful of wealthy and geeky patrons of sea exploration. A year ago, film director James Cameron made the first solo dive to the ocean's deepest point, the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. Richard Branson, who runs the Virgin business empire, has similar plans to explore the Mariana Trench with his Virgin Oceanic.

Bezos drew some parallels to his crew's work and the Apollo 11 mission. The so-called remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, that explored the ocean floor sent data back to the ship via fiber optic cables transmitting power at more than 4,000 volts.

"We on the team were often struck by poetic echoes of the lunar missions," Bezos wrote. "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."

Bezos noted that the years underwater had taken some toll on the engines. He wrote that many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which could make some of the identification of the specific pieces difficult. The goal now is to restore the pieces and prevent further corrosion. But Bezos said the recovery is significant enough to display two F-1 engines.

"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," Bezos wrote. "We're excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing."