Just a few days before the world’s media no-doubt turns its attention to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, news of another deep-sea relic is surfacing. Amazon founder and space fanatic Jeff Bezos has revealed plans to salvage the remains of the massive Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engines that powered the first stage of Apollo 11. According to reports, the engines have been located at a depth of 14,000 ft but their condition remains unclear.
Far below the top of this 363 ft tall Saturn V sit the five F-1 engines (NASA)
The five F-1 engines on each Saturn V had a short, but action-packed life. After blasting the rocket off the pad with a thrust of 1.5 million lb. each, the engines would burn for 135.5 sec before the center F-1 would shut down. The remaining four would shut down moments later. Eight solid fuel rockets would then fire 0.6 sec after engine shutdown to separate the first-stage at an altitude of 38.8 miles. Thanks to its momentum at 6,000 mph, the stage would coast to an apogee of around 69 miles before falling back towards the Atlantic. Pivoting around in the upper atmosphere owing to the weight of the engines, most sources say the Apollo first stage struck the surface of the sea base first despite the tail fins. The Apollo 11 first stage impacted 357.1 naut.miles from Cape Canaveral. According to NASA's official history the stage hit 31.535 deg north and 34.844 west -- likely making positive identification of the relics easier. However, given the likely impact velocity it is difficult to tell if the remains will be recognizable once retrieved after more than 40 years at the bottom of the sea.
By the time this photo was taken at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in late 1968, the first stage for Apollo 11 had already passed through the site. Here the first stages for Apollo 14, 15 and 16 come together. (NASA)