Story & Photos by Elston Hill
In 2013, billionaire Jeff Bezos underwrote a private — and secret — expedition to find and recover the Apollo rocket engines that launched astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon.
It was an amazing mission – the rockets ended up three miles deep under the sea, a mile deeper than the Titanic.
Bezos was on board the ship for the three-week expedition when the rockets were found and brought to the surface. He managed to recover rockets from both Apollo 11 (the first moon mission) and Apollo 12 (the second moon mission). Bezos, who says he’s very proud of the Museum of Flight in Tukwila, told NASA that if he could recover two rockets, he wanted one of them to be displayed there.
Here’s a video that shows Bezos’ expedition to find and retrieve the engines:
A section of the Apollo 12 engine will be previewed at the Museum from Nov. 21 until Jan. 4, 2016. Then it will be moved to the Museum archives until 2017, when it will become part of a new permanent Apollo exhibit.
Bezos was quite animated at the presentation today at the Museum of Flight; here are some photos (click images to see larger versions/slideshow):
Here’s more info from the Museum of Flight:

On the anniversary of the Apollo 12 Moon landing on Nov. 19, 1969, the Museum of Flight made the first public showing of the restored remains of the F-1 rocket engines used to launch NASA’s historic Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 missions to the Moon. The historic engines were recovered from the sea by Seattle-based Bezos Expeditions in 2013 and have been under conservation at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. At the request of the Bezos Expeditions team, NASA has now given the artifacts to the Museum for permanent display in Seattle. Speakers at the media event included Museum President and CEO, Doug King, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Bezos Expeditions. One Apollo 12 artifact will be on temporary public display beginning Nov. 21.
“These artifacts not only launched humanity’s first expeditions to the Moon, they fired the imagination of young people who are now today’s leaders in the second great era of space exploration,” said Doug King, President and CEO of The Museum of Flight. “We trust that the legacy of these engines will continue to inspire a new generation of explorers who will set foot on Mars and other new worlds.”
These engines boosted the 40-story Saturn V rocket from liftoff until the edge of space, then separated with the first stage of the rocket and fell 40 miles through the atmosphere and into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Subsequent stages of the rocket propelled the Apollo spacecraft into orbit and on to the Moon. For the next 43 years the F-1 engines were lost and beyond our grasp, deeper than the wreck of the Titanic.
Bezos Expeditions found and recovered the engines from the bottom of the Atlantic in 2013. The engines were our last missing links to the first adventures to another world.
“It took a lot of 21st century underwater tech and an extraordinary team of skilled professionals to find and recover these historical treasures and, thanks to them, NASA, and The Museum of Flight, now a whole new generation of young people will be able to see these amazing engines on display,” said Jeff Bezos, founder of Bezos Expeditions. “When I was five years old I watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon and it imprinted me with a passion for science and exploration – it’s my hope that these engines might spark a similar passion in a child who sees them today.”
“Exhibiting these historic engines not only shares NASA’s storied history, it also helps America educate to innovate,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This display of spaceflight greatness can help inspire our next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and explorers to build upon past successes and create the new knowledge and capabilities needed to enable our journey to Mars.”
Artifact on Temporary Public Display Beginning Nov. 21
These unique artifacts of history arrive just in time for the anniversary of the Apollo 12 Moon landing on Nov. 19, 1969. The relics are now part of The Museum of Flight, and will be on view for the public for the first time. One section of the Apollo 12 engine-the injector plate-will be previewed at the Museum from Nov. 21 until Jan. 4, 2016. Then it will be moved to the Museum archives until early 2017, when it will return with the rest of the F-1 artifacts as part of a new permanent Apollo exhibit at the Museum. This new permanent exhibit will showcase the salvaged Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 F-1 remains, other Apollo artifacts including lunar rocks, and large display illustrating the career of Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad.


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