A team of underwater treasure hunters announced Wednesday that they have found -- and recovered -- major pieces of two or more engines from the Apollo moon program that were lost for decades in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral.
The team, funded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has spent the last three weeks at sea searching for the F-1 engines, which powered the Saturn V rocket that blasted the Apollo capsules to the moon, in ocean waters up to 14,000 feet deep, the announcement said.
The engines, along with the rest of the Saturn V rocket, were designed to splash into the ocean after take-off. NASA never intended to recover them.
But about a year ago, Bezos said he would try to do just that and he revealed the success in a posting made to the website of his adventure project, Bezos Expeditions.
"We've seen an underwater wonderland -- an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves as testament to the Apollo program," Bezos wrote.
He said the team recovered enough material to "fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines," though it would be difficult to know which missions they originated from because many of the serial numbers were missing.
"We might see more during restoration," he said. "The objects themselves are gorgeous."
The Apollo missions stand as the highlight of the U.S. space program -- culminating with the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 that put the first astronauts on the moon. There were a total of 11 manned Apollo flights between 1968 and 1972, when the program was canceled.
In response to the recovery, NASA chief Charlie Bolden had nothing but praise.
"This is a historic find and I congratulate the team for its determination and perseverance in the recovery of these important artifacts of our first efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit," Bolden said in a statement.
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