Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Finds Apollo 11 Engines on Ocean Floor

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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 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

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, “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.”

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Who destroyed the brick and mortar bookstore?  I was just hanging out at B&N last night, and per usual, it was busy as hell.  I sure am glad I got out of there before it was “destroyed…”

Lee Dronick

As with Freddy our local Barnes & Nobles Bookstore is usually busy. Now how many of them buying may be another story, but I do see people in the checkout line. I personally make purchases there, but also on Amazon.

The independent, and usually small, bookstores are a different story. Both of the ones that were in my neighborhood have closed. Same story all over the city, San Diego, there are very few independent bookstores open.

Bryan Chaffin

Tell it to Borders, Freddy. And B&N’s shareholders. And to the analysts who have written extensively about the risk to B&N’s future viability.

And tell it to B&N’s CEO who has talked about spinning off its Nook business, a business that may actually survive.

In fact, tell it to anyone capable of understanding that the world doesn’t necessarily revolve around or reflect only their personal experiences in their tiny corner of the wider world.

Print publishing itself is in peril and the industry in the throes of a major shakeup. Part of it is their own fault as publishers have been slow to adopt to the realities of a digital world.

But Amazon gets a lot of the credit (or blame, depending on one’s viewpoint) for using predatory pricing on books, especially best sellers, to gain market share from brick and mortar retailers and to promote Kindle.

Those practices have put the hurt on the two major chains, one of which is now gone, and on the independents book stores that hadn’t already fallen victim to the power of those same chains during the last 15 years.


Another aspect of this. Chapters is the big bookstore chain up here. Yes they are busy. People are buying coffee and snack. They are hanging out. They are purchasing knickknacks, and coasters, and all sorts of non book items. At my local Chapters I’d guess about 40% of the floorspace is taken up with non book items. Yes the “bookstore” still exists but less and less of what they do revolves around being a “bookstore”.

Bryan Chaffin

Retail book sellers aside, I think this project by Mr. Bezos is totally awesome. I am also VERY impressed that he took up sponsorship of the 10,000 Year Clock project, something that Disney originally backed, if I remember an article I read in Wired more than a decade ago.

I often worry about the repercussions of any race to the bottom, the kind of race led by Amazon in the world of retailing, but Mr. Bezos is doing some cool things with his fortune.

I also have three major editorials related to publishing that I’m working on. I hope to publish the first one Soon?.

Lee Dronick

Our Barnes & Nobles pulled out the audio and video section and replaced it with a kid’s book section that also sells activity things such as learning toys. They also greatly expanded the Nook section and made it the center attraction of the store. Most of the benches and chairs near the magazine racks have been removed, I assume to discourage lizards.

There is a Starbucks inside and that section is usually busy with students studying. I don’t know if they are buying things other than coffee or tea, it doesn’t look like it.

Can they survive? I don’t know, I don’t have enough data to make a prediction. I have made a conscious decision to shop there instead of Amazon, when possible. However, I am also buying books from the iTunes Store and reading them on my iPad. The World is changing.

Lee Dronick

Yes Bryan let us not forget the great feat in finding the engines.


let us not forget the great feat in finding the engines.

Yes absolutely. Given the technology of the day they probably only knew within a mile or so where the first stage impacted and then it could have drifted several more miles before settling on the bottom. Also it’s not like they were looking for The Titanic. What hit the bottom was likely pretty torn up and scattered. It’s quite an achievement.

Scott B in DC

Yet another reason to go back to visit Seattle! I was there when they brought in one of the old 707s that served as Air Force 1. This will make it more intriguing.


Mr. Chaffin, go easy on the poor commenter, haven’t you ever heard that all politics are local? Freddy’s experience with the long-tail in book retailing (or as others have put it, a retailer that carries books amongst other items) shows that while the industry may be hurting, it is far from “destroyed”


Who destroyed the brick and mortar bookstore?? I was just hanging out at B&N last night, and per usual, it was busy as hell.

I used to hang out in Borders. It was generally busy as hell in there as well. Unfortunately, people were busy browsing, drinking coffee, and reading books in the store they had no intention of buying. If they did buy, they’d then go to Amazon and buy it where most of the time it could be found cheaper.

I suspect things probably are similar at B & N. I, however, also think B & N probably has seen a slight up tick in business as a result of Borders closing.

Lee Dronick

Terrin you are probably correct that Barnes & Nobles has picked up customers that were Borders’. Somehow the brick and mortar stores need to compete better on price with the online retailers. The not paying online sales tax probably helped Amazon’s business, that is changing and may level the playing field a bit.

Bryan Chaffin

The problem is that Amazon will dump to gain share. The company has been doing it for years, and will resume doing so once the DOJ restores its ability to do so.

Brick and mortars can’t compete on price.

One thing they can compete on, however, is service and experience. This is especially true of the best mom and pops. Somewhat ironically, I believe that some of those mom and pops (Book Passage, Book People, Powell’s, etc.) will long outlive B&N if B&N can’t find a way to make it work.

Book Passage, for instance, brings many authors through and is known for having first editions and signed copies of new books. Book People is known for its staff recommendations and knowledgeable staff. Powell’s is Powell’s. smile

One thing that B&N would be singularly equipped to do is to offer a digital copy of its books with the purchase of a physical copy. That would get me shopping there again (as it is I switched to my iPad?iBooks and Kindle?some time ago).

Publishers and authors would have to come together to allow that, however, and I don’t see it happening.

This is getting me fired up to write those editorials I mentioned…

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