Jeff Bezos: Yes, it’s Apollo 11! Serial numbers confirm historic engine find

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The serial number on engine #5 from the Apollo 11 mission.

This is a pretty big piece of American history.

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Jerrad Alexander, SpaceWorks Technician, uses a fine brush to clean an Apollo F-1 Thrust Chamber. In the background, you can see mist from one of the fine sprays that continually treats the artifacts with freshwater to remove ocean debris.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos revealed today that his expedition and research team, which earlier this year pulled two F-1 rocket engines off the sea floor, confirmed that one of the engines is from the historic Apollo 11 mission which first placed a man on the moon.

“44 years ago tomorrow Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and now we have recovered a critical technological marvel that made it all possible,” writes Bezos.

At the time of their recovery, the Bezos-led team suspected the rockets were from Apollo 11, a mission in which Armstrong first stepped down on the moon on July 20, 1969. Now, they’ve got real evidence through a serial number on the Rocketdyne engine, 2044, that corresponds to the Apollo 11 mission.

A Bezos-led team has been cleaning and restoring the rockets at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas.

A space and sci-fi nut, Bezos is fueling his own space efforts through the privately-held company Blue Origin. Could we see one of the engines at Blue Origin? Maybe the Smithsonian? Or perhaps Seattle’s own Museum of Flight?

We’ll have to wait and see. For now, here’s the note that Bezos shared today about the historic discovery.

When we stepped off the Seabed Worker four months ago in Port Canaveral, we had enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. We brought back thrust chambers, gas generators, injectors, heat exchangers, turbines, fuel manifolds and dozens of other artifacts – all simply gorgeous and a striking testament to the Apollo program. There was one secret that the ocean didn’t give up easily: mission identification. The components’ fiery end and heavy corrosion from 43 years underwater removed or covered up most of the original serial numbers. We left Florida knowing the conservation team had their work cut out for them, and we’ve kept our fingers crossed ever since.

Today, I’m thrilled to share some exciting news. One of the conservators who was scanning the objects with a black light and a special lens filter has made a breakthrough discovery – “2044” – stenciled in black paint on the side of one of the massive thrust chambers. 2044 is the Rocketdyne serial number that correlates to NASA number 6044, which is the serial number for F-1 Engine #5 from Apollo 11. The intrepid conservator kept digging for more evidence, and after removing more corrosion at the base of the same thrust chamber, he found it – “Unit No 2044″ – stamped into the metal surface.

44 years ago tomorrow Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and now we have recovered a critical technological marvel that made it all possible. Huge kudos to the conservation team at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Conservation is painstaking work that requires remarkable levels of patience and attention to detail, and these guys have both.

This is a big milestone for the project and the whole team couldn’t be more excited to share it with you all.

Sincerely,

Jeff