After you’ve built an online retailing empire, destroyed the brick and mortar book store model, single-handedly ushered in the digital book era, and embarrassed the world’s technology elite by being the first to successfully compete with Apple’s iPad, what’s there left for you to do? For Jeff Bezos, your todo list apparently includes mounting an expedition 14,000 feet below the ocean’s surface in order to find some space memorabilia thought lost to history.
Mr. Bezos announced on Thursday that he found the F1 rocket motors that powered the Apollo 11 mission to the moon on the ocean’s floor, some 14,000 below the surface. The dot.com billionaire mounted a private expedition, using no public funding, in order to find the engines, which were left in the ocean after propelling Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon, mankind’s first trip to another world.
Apollo 11 Photo from NASA Archives
“I was five years old when I watched Apollo 11 unfold on television,” Mr. Bezos said in a blog post at BezosExpeditions.com, “and without any doubt it was a big contributor to my passions for science, engineering, and exploration. A year or so ago, I started to wonder, with the right team of undersea pros, could we find and potentially recover the F-1 engines that started mankind’s mission to the moon?”
14,000 feet (4,300 meters) is roughly two and a half miles below the surface, where staggering pressure makes under water exploration dangerous, risky, and expensive. Despite this, Mr. Bezos is considering trying to recover one or more of the five engine stages he found.
“We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in - they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years,” he wrote. “On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.”
NASA technically owns the engines, and the U.S. space agency told Reuters that it would be working with Bezos Expeditions on what to do with them if he is able to recover any of the engines.
“We’ll be interested to see what condition the engines were in, how they survived the high impact on the water and after so much time sitting in the ocean,” NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs told Reuters.
Mr. Bezos said that he could see the engines being given to the Smithsonian Institute, but that he has asked NASA if it would consider displaying them at the Museum of Flight in Amazon’s back yard of Seattle.
“NASA is one of the few institutions I know that can inspire five-year-olds,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “It sure inspired me, and with this endeavor, maybe we can inspire a few more youth to invent and explore.”