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March 29, 2012 2:17 PM   Subscribe

"NASA is one of the few institutions I know that can inspire five-year-olds. It sure inspired me, and with this endeavor, maybe we can inspire a few more youth to invent and explore." An undersea expendition funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has discovered the spent rocket engines used to power Apollo 11.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (59 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I always assumed they'd blown into tiny bits or burned up on re-entry. This is some cool stuff.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:22 PM on March 29, 2012


An undersea expendition funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has discovered the spent rocket engines used to power Apollo 11.

Um ... pictures or it didn't happen?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:30 PM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bezos expeditions? Lol.

He's obvious just jealous of all the attention James Cameron is getting.
posted by delmoi at 2:33 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um ... pictures or it didn't happen?

It sounds like they just found location based on sonar.
posted by delmoi at 2:33 PM on March 29, 2012


I always assumed they'd blown into tiny bits or burned up on re-entry.

The first booster stage never made it out of the atmosphere, thus there would be no re-entry and burning up.
It will be interesting to see what condition they are in, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:37 PM on March 29, 2012


An undersea expendition

Rich guys are spending their way to undersea fame these days. I'm waiting for Warren and Jimmy Buffett to start cruising the bottom of the Caribbean together in a pirate sub looking for Spanish gold.
posted by pracowity at 2:38 PM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


...and Jimmy Buffett to start cruising the bottom of the Caribbean together in a pirate sub looking for Spanish gold.

He's 200 years too late.
posted by jquinby at 2:40 PM on March 29, 2012


Too late to look?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:43 PM on March 29, 2012


NASA launched i think 13 Saturn V's. Wonder how he know these F1's are from Apollo 11 if they only have sonar data?
posted by Mcable at 2:44 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sealand was just a dry run. Deep sea datacenters is what's coming.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 2:44 PM on March 29, 2012


Knows. My kingdom for an edit button!
posted by Mcable at 2:44 PM on March 29, 2012


I assumed you were using the royal 'he'.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:46 PM on March 29, 2012


He's 200 years too late to be a pirate, I mean.
posted by jquinby at 2:51 PM on March 29, 2012


No no you can still be a pirate today!

The best one is the seismologist whose name I will not mention because he has since deleted this from his home page. He buys into the theory (or whatever something like this is called--idea, speculation, stupidity, &c) that the Egyptian pyramids and temple architecture were done with technology provided by aliens, who used to have a colony when the sea was a lot lower during the last ice age peak in the Persan Gulf (Atlantis, if you will) and he wants to collect money from wealthy adventurers to do high resolution reflection seismology to find the buried ruins.

That would be so cool. Spending the money, I mean. I am pretty damn sure there aren't any Atlantis ruins down there.
posted by bukvich at 3:10 PM on March 29, 2012


This does sound cool. But the cynic in me wonders how much of this is really about inspiring five year olds, and how much is about the act of finding the engines.

What the hell... If he can inspire one five year old, good for him.
posted by dfm500 at 3:24 PM on March 29, 2012


(Looking at that footage of the F1 engine- I've always wondered why the exhaust plume is dark just as it exits the nozzle before turing into blazing yellow white further down the plume.)
posted by marvin at 3:32 PM on March 29, 2012


Bezos expeditions page is fascinating. Has anyone heard of the 10 thousand year clock project previously?

I think this is a great project though I would love to see these billionaires putting money into more real world problems than the more infantile, though undoubtedly cool, exploration type projects.
posted by numberstation at 3:34 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scientific value of this? Measuring degree of corrosion? *unimpressed*
posted by elpapacito at 3:37 PM on March 29, 2012


NASA can inspire ki*cuts funding*
posted by narcoleptic at 3:47 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The 10,000 year clock was an inspiration for Anathem, if I recall correctly.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:55 PM on March 29, 2012


I wondered this myself, and a little research reveals that it's probably because of the turbo pump exhaust, which is pumped into a wrap-around manifold (seen here as the snake-like tube wrapping around the engine bell).

The turbopump exhaust goes through a heat exchanger and is relatively cool compared to the hot engine exhaust, and is used to protect the engine by creating a boundary later between it and the hot reaction gases.

The turbopump does not need to be as fuel-efficient as the engine itself, and it runs substantially more fuel-rich than the engine, thus burning at a darker color. As the remaining kerosene in the turbopump exhaust travels down the plume and mixes with the hot exhaust it burns more completely, creating the yellow flame.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:08 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scientific value of this? Measuring degree of corrosion? *unimpressed*

Yeah the whole thing sounded strange to me. There are mockups of the engines at a couple sites around America. I'm sure sure what more will be added by a display that says "These are the actual engines". But some people really like collecting space stuff, so go figure.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:09 PM on March 29, 2012


Has anyone heard of the 10 thousand year clock project previously?

I heard about it (somewhat tangentially) on a podcast from the Long Now Foundation. It was a recording of a talk by an artist who was printing 10,000-year photographs to accompany the clock. The process required was fairly amazing. Here's the link:

There's also a 2004 podcast about the clock itself, although I haven't listened to it.

On a somewhat related noted, you can find a podcast from the Anathem book launch event if you poke around the Long Now seminar archives.

Back on topic, this picture of an F1 test firing is really, really neat. There's a beautiful lighting effect going on that I don't know how to describe. I can't imagine how you would build a structure to hold that engine in place.
posted by compartment at 4:18 PM on March 29, 2012


Excavating, transporting, and restoring these engines is a daunting task. At best, the engines will require significant restoration; at worst, they'll be pieced together from shards--perhaps a more likely scenario given the aerodynamic forces inflicted on the engines.

A thread on The Rocketry Forum notes that the first stage separated from the second stage at an altitude of about 205,000 feet, then ascended to a peak altitude near 366,000 feet before beginning its descent. The stage impacted the water at ~450mph, and sources claim it broke up around 25-30,000 feet.

From an [MSNBC] article:
Curt Newport, the underwater salvage expert who orchestrated the raising of Liberty Bell 7, said bringing up the engines would pose significant challenges. He assumes that the engines are among other pieces of debris from the Saturn 5's first stage that are spread across the sea floor. "The information I found suggested that [the stage] broke up due to aerodynamic forces before it hit the water," he told me.

Verifying that the engines are from Apollo 11 rather than a different Apollo mission would require checking parts numbers against NASA's database, he said. And bringing up the engines would not be a trivial task.

"If they're intact, they're like nine tons each," Newport told me. "That is not going to be easy to bring to the surface."

Bezos said in his statement that the condition of the engines was not yet known.

posted by prinado at 4:34 PM on March 29, 2012


For lots of great F1-related goodness, I'd like to take a moment to recommend the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. They built and tested the engines at the Redstone Arsenal and have a few full-scale vehicles on display. You can even see Werner Von Braun's desk and slide rule. I went a few years ago with a group of cub scouts and was prepared for something pretty hokey, but was actually blown quite away by all the stuff they have there.
posted by jquinby at 4:36 PM on March 29, 2012


He's a billionaire. Who is spending a lot of time with his secret team underwater. And has just located some enormous rocket engines.

Look, are we sure that Jeff Bezos isn't a Bond villain?
posted by ZsigE at 4:40 PM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Back on topic, this picture of an F1 test firing is really, really neat. There's a beautiful lighting effect going on that I don't know how to describe. I can't imagine how you would build a structure to hold that engine in place.

Well, the engine produced 6.77 MN of force, so as long as you had more then 6.77M/g = 6.77/9.8 = 690 metric tons, you should be fine. A sphere of iron 690 metric tons would have a radius of just 2.7m
posted by delmoi at 4:46 PM on March 29, 2012


Compared to the forces they had to withstand while firing, aerodynamic forces would be nothing for these engines. That's not the case for the empty first stage, though, which is basically a big tin can, nor is it necessarily true of the forces from hitting the water at > 400 MPH.

Considering the mounting arrangements I wouldn't be surprised if the engines were still connected together by a lot of framing steel. That would certainly complicate the task of bringing any of them up.
posted by localroger at 4:51 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, the engine produced 6.77 MN of force, so as long as you had more then 6.77M/g = 6.77/9.8 = 690 metric tons, you should be fine.

You just have to connect it to the engine with bolts that can handle that...
posted by smackfu at 5:05 PM on March 29, 2012


It says they are the property of NASA. How exactly could NASA hold a claim on something they throw away into the ocean. I don't really see why if he was the one that brought them up it wouldn't be up to Bezos with what to do with them. (eek that sentence is awkward)
posted by Phantomx at 5:06 PM on March 29, 2012


Wow, the test stand they used to do the Saturn V first stage testing is crazy big.
posted by smackfu at 5:15 PM on March 29, 2012


(Thanks robotvoodoopower)

400mph as a terminal velocity seems very fast, considering the first stage would be a huge, light, flailing aluminum can. Or would the heavy engine assembly drag the stage down through the atmosphere, hitting the ocean engines first?
posted by marvin at 5:22 PM on March 29, 2012


numberstation: I think this is a great project though I would love to see these billionaires putting money into more real world problems than the more infantile, though undoubtedly cool, exploration type projects.

Jeff Bezos gave $15 million to the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (he's a Princeton graduate) just a few months ago, which could certainly help us advance our understanding of alzheimer's, autism, etc.

Eariler last year, he donated $10 million to the Museum of History & Industry, "to establish a Center for Innovation at MOHAI's new location on South Lake Union," which I'm sure the Seattle locals appreciate, even if it isn't exactly ending world hunger.

And just because something is cool does not make it "infantile". Lighten up.
posted by misha at 5:34 PM on March 29, 2012


expendition

I love this shiny new word!
posted by mwhybark at 5:38 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow! Here's a compilation of film clips, some of which taken inside the fuel tank of assorted Saturn V first stage launches.
posted by marvin at 5:46 PM on March 29, 2012


marvin, I'm certainly no expert, but 400 mph seems reasonable. The first stage weighs 158,000 kg empty and has a cross section of 80 m^2 (10 meter diameter sans engine fairings). Plug this into here with a drag coefficient of 0.75 and you get about 400 mph.

The drag coefficient is the real unknown, and will vary as the stage spins and sways, but even a brick-shaped object with that mass and those dimensions would hit the water at about 250 mph. If you were able to slap a fairing on the top of the first stage and guide it head-first into the water, it'd be going 650 mph. So 400 mph is just an in-between guess, methinks :)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:50 PM on March 29, 2012



The video opens with a hazy, detritus-filled field of view moving along the foot of an undersea cliff. As the robot-sub rounds the corner, the video dims, then resolves to show the mouth of a massive cylinder looming into view. Barnacles encrust the unnaturally precise circular sweep of the rim, and gently waving fronds of seagrass ornament the silt-covered base, providing shelter for indifferent crustaceans. Small fish dart in and out of the interior reinforcing trim, then suddenly flit back into the dim recesses, sensing the approach of the sub. For a moment the camera glimpses something larger gliding into the darkness of the interior before it is gone. From outside the mouth, faint beams of light can be seen filtering in through a gash in the hull where corrosion conspired with the initial impact on the undersea ridge. The sub forgoes the inside of the interstage for the moment to survey the part of the massive outer hull not nestled into the rocks. More barnacles and small coral structures nearly obscure the flag on the outer hull. Brightly colored fish school amongst the undulations of patient anemones. By now, this discarded segment of the mighty Saturn V is more alive than not. The womb that incubated the first life on Earth has serenely reabsorbed the remnants of life's first wild attempts to escape. [fade out]
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:59 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]




I would love to see these billionaires putting money into more real world problems than the more infantile, though undoubtedly cool, exploration type projects.

Think of it as funding historical research.
posted by smackfu at 6:19 PM on March 29, 2012


Back on topic, this picture of an F1 test firing is really, really neat. There's a beautiful lighting effect going on that I don't know how to describe. I can't imagine how you would build a structure to hold that engine in place.

Wow, the test stand they used to do the Saturn V first stage testing is crazy big.

Back when we had sliderules, we were able to build such wonderful thing using one or two decimal places of precision.

If we want manned spaceflight back, we better start retraining people on sliderules asap!
posted by mikelieman at 6:32 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're wondering how large the engines are compared to a person, wonder no more!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 PM on March 29, 2012


Honestly, I kind of wish he'd take the money he's going to spend on raising these engines and use it to improve the working conditions in Amazon's warehouses.

*still loves science*
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:28 PM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


You just have to connect it to the engine with bolts that can handle that...
When the rocket is not firing, there would be a 6.7MN force pulling it to the earth. When the rocket is firing, the net force would be zero. You'd probably want to make it a lot heavier in case of miscalculation, or problem but I don't really think it would be that big of a deal. The Tuned mass damper at the top of the Taipei 101 is actually 660 metric tons, just 30 short of what you'd need to hold down an F-1 engine.
posted by delmoi at 7:48 PM on March 29, 2012


Has anyone heard of the 10 thousand year clock project previously?

The question I saw asked elsewhere and not answered:

The picture of Stewart Brand, just back from Morocco, stands before the prototype clock minutes before it rings in the year 2000 - why the hooded robe of blue? What fetish is being satisfied ritualistically in that robe with that clock?

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2011/06/the_clock_in_th.php
posted by rough ashlar at 8:47 PM on March 29, 2012


The 10,000 year clock thing has been in the works for a long time, Bezos just provided some funding
posted by delmoi at 8:57 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is the critique of Bezos so muted? Fuck this guy. He treats workers like crap, abuses the tax system, and then decides to "inspire" us with the money he denied to the school systems? Fuck fuck fuck all this ego masturbation that rich guys have been doing in the news. Fuck them for using science to get away with it.

When society taxes these jackasses at an even close to fair rate,maybe we as a people could decide whether that money would better inspire us if spent on health or education or actual space exploration.

Fuck him.
posted by SomeOneElse at 9:36 PM on March 29, 2012


Without the Rocketdyne F1 engine,
MTV would never have gotten off the ground.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:41 PM on March 29, 2012


I was a project engineer at NASA during this time- Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville. Worked on the J-2 rocket engine project (2nd and 3rd stages of the Saturn V). Those were heady times indeed, and it's truly amazing what was accomplished less than seventy years after the first powered flight.
I was lucky enough to be in the blockhouse for the first launch of the Saturn V. Nov 7, 1967. Young engineer, just out of college the previous June.

Get off my lawn.
posted by drhydro at 10:23 PM on March 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


It says they are the property of NASA. How exactly could NASA hold a claim on something they throw away into the ocean.

Well, at first blush these would indeed be jetsam, governed by the common law of the sea. But this is superseded by the Outer Space Treaty, under which:

Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth.

This, of course, was needed just in case an Apollo capsule went astray and the USSR pulled a Gary Powers on the crew and paraded the Columbia in Red Square as captured booty. Fortunately, the USSR had an identical correlative interest, hence the treaty.

Scientific value of this? Measuring degree of corrosion? *unimpressed*

Yeah, this is significantly less in the domain of science and more in the domain of history, which means ... everybody just stopped listening to me.

I do sort of worry about the precedents we're seeing here wrt both Apollo and the Titanic. Perhaps some decades hence we will be arguing on some FaceFilter hybrid about whether Blue Ivy Carter and her aetherwave startup money should be allowed to salvage the actual Apollo landing site on the Moon, or bring Opportunity home from Mars.
posted by dhartung at 11:24 PM on March 29, 2012


Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth.

Did the first stage actually make it into outer space, though?
posted by delmoi at 1:06 AM on March 30, 2012


Perhaps some decades hence we will be arguing on some FaceFilter hybrid about whether Blue Ivy Carter and her aetherwave startup money should be allowed to salvage the actual Apollo landing site on the Moon, or bring Opportunity home from Mars.

Or dig up dhartung's tomb

Because he was a noted MeFite.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:58 AM on March 30, 2012


Did the first stage actually make it into outer space, though?

I'm guessing it doesn't matter, because the rockets are still property of the US government.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:02 AM on March 30, 2012


~Did the first stage actually make it into outer space, though?
~I'm guessing it doesn't matter, because the rockets are still property of the US government.


As the Bezos site states, the engines are still property of NASA.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:05 AM on March 30, 2012


Looking at that footage of the F1 engine- I've always wondered why the exhaust plume is dark just as it exits the nozzle before turing into blazing yellow white further down the plume

The outside of the exhaust is a combination of fuel-rich exhaust from the turbopumps, from fuel cooled by the nozzle -- fuel was fed in small tubes around the nozzle to cool it, then back into the engine to be burned, and the fact that the F-1 deliberately ran fuel rich.

The cooler gas is initially darker. When it gets away from the nozzle, it mixes with enough air to burn as well. This picture show it well, along with the start of the other visual feature of the F-1 -- the engine nozzle was too small in diameter for the pressure, so the plume was "choked" coming out the nozzle and became wider when it got free of the nozzle. The effect became even more prominent as the stage climbed. Ideally, the nozzle would have been much wider, but combustion stability, and simple size, demanded a narrower than ideal nozzle.
posted by eriko at 5:25 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's the launch video of Apollo 11 with narration and commentary of what is going on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:52 AM on March 30, 2012


As the Bezos site states, the engines are still property of NASA.

Right, that is the statement that prompted this discussion in the first place. The question is why.
posted by smackfu at 5:56 AM on March 30, 2012


The question is why.

Because the engines represent technology the US doesn't want to give out.

If the question is how can NASA still claim ownership of equipment discarded into international waters, there's probably a treaty somewhere that covers these situations. If not, everyone knows the US has many large guns, along with other means of leverage, to back up any claims of ownership. Bezos has deep pockets and could probably wage a long court battle, but what will it get him? The animosity of NASA and lost money, because NASA will win the case in the end.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 AM on March 30, 2012


The question is why.

Government properties, by law and treaty, are never considered salvage and always belong to the government that owned them. So, for example, HMS Prince of Wales, lying ~230 under the water off the coast of Malaysia, belongs still to the United Kingdom, who protects it as a war grave.

There are exceptions -- prizes of war leaping to mind, items duly declared as no longer owned, etc. -- but NASA has never done so with spaceflight hardware that wasn't explicitly recovered.

Indeed, to this day, all of the capsules in the various museums around the world are on loan from NASA, not owned by the museums.
posted by eriko at 7:04 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've long been a proponent of private initiatives to spaceflight given the lack of resources NASA faces. I've even called out how it will keep kids interested in science on here.

But "Expeditions"? Man, if there was ever a word that brought to mind American robber barons and aloof British nobility, expedition would be it. Expeditions doesn't bring to mind the future and science, it brings to mind a time we don't really want to go back to.
posted by formless at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2012


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