Despite having stood up to the immense thrust needed to launch the mighty Saturn V rocket toward the moon, it turns out that the mammoth F-1 engines that powered the booster’s first two-and-a-half minutes of flight were no match for the Atlantic Ocean.
The twisted and tattered remains of at least two engines, salvaged from the seafloor by an expedition organized and funded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, are set to go on public view in Kansas on Friday (May 24) as conservators work to preserve them for generations of museum-goers to come.
“I personally didn’t think the impact with the surface of the ocean would rip the engines apart like it did,” Jim Remar, president of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, told collectSPACE.com during a preview of the F-1 engines’ observation gallery on Monday (May 20). “Given that these are comprised of some of the strongest superalloys known to man, I thought to some degree that the engines would have remained virtually intact.”
“Obviously, that wasn’t the case,” Remar said.
It isn’t known how fast the engines — still attached to the rocket’s first stage — were falling when they impacted the ocean more than 40 years ago. Having finished their job, accelerating the Saturn V to more than 6,000 miles per hour (9,600 kilometers per hour) and pushing the rocket to more than 40 miles high (64 kilometers) they were allowed to drop back to Earth for a violent splashdown.
“It was almost like the ocean ripped these things apart like an aluminum can,” said Remar.