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Photo Credit: Bezos Expeditions
A piece of the Apollo F-1 rocket engines. Photo Credit: Bezos Expeditions

How does Amazon’s founder spend his down time? Catching up on email in the middle of the Atlantic while monitoring the progress of his crew recovering historic space artifacts from the bottom of the ocean.

Jeff Bezos reports this morning that his Bezos Expeditions has recovered significant pieces of two F-1 rocket engines that were used to launch rockets into space on the landmark Apollo missions, before plunging into the ocean.

Bezos and team on the ship deck. (Click for larger image.)

Bezos said previously that he believed the engines were from the historic Apollo 11 mission that landed the first humans on the Moon in 1969 — but he specifically didn’t say Apollo 11 in his post this morning, and there is a risk that the engines were from a different Apollo mission.

He writes, “Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous.”

Bezos adds, “We’re bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines.”

That’s good news for the Seattle region. The engines are the property of NASA, but the agency previously indicated its willingness to let the Museum of Flight in Seattle — Bezos’ hometown aerospace museum — display one of the engines if the Smithsonian declined, or if two engines were recovered.

How did they do it? With robots, of course. Here is Bezos waxing poetic about the technology, and the setting.

The technology used for the recovery is in its own way as otherworldly as the Apollo technology itself. The Remotely Operated Vehicles worked at a depth of more than 14,000 feet, tethered to our ship with fiber optics for data and electric cables transmitting power at more than 4,000 volts. We on the team were often struck by poetic echoes of the lunar missions. 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 has a deep interest in space, dating back to watching the Apollo mission as a kid, and he has his own commercial space venture, Blue Origin. He concludes with shout-outs to NASA and members of the recovery crew: “While I spent a reasonable chunk of time in my cabin emailing and working,” he says, “it didn’t keep me from getting to know the team.”

Read his full post here. Here’s a video from Bezos Expeditions.

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