By Roger McKinney
Globe Staff Writer
NEVADA, Mo. —
Retirees of the former Rocketdyne plant watched this past week with interest as a team sponsored by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recovered an F-1 engine from a Saturn V rocket on the ocean’s floor.
Bezos was seeking to recover an engine from the Apollo 11 flight, the first to land men on the moon, but he has been unable to confirm that so far.
“Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult,” Bezos wrote in an online report. “We might see more during restoration.”
The crew used remote vehicles to recover the rocket engine from three miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, where it landed four decades or more ago.
The F-1 engine was developed by Rocketdyne, and components of it were manufactured at the Neosho plant. Each engine had 1.5 million pounds of thrust. The five-engine cluster on the first stage of the Saturn V produced 7.5 million pounds of thrust.
“I think it’s pretty cool that they found it after all this time,” said Ted England, 74, a former employee of Rocketdyne and its successors.
He said Rocketdyne employees in Neosho made the domes for the thrust chamber, where the fuel injection occurred.
“We machined the gas generators and some other things,” he said.
“It’s remarkable that they can recover anything like that,” said Rocketdyne retiree Bill Martz, 80. “It’s kind of interesting what they can do with modern equipment. They’ve come a long way in technology.”
He said the interest of the former employees now doesn’t match the excitement of watching a launch of a Saturn V on a mission to the moon.
“That was when the excitement was,” he said. “People were just glued to their TV screens.”
Another retiree, Bill Cupps, 79, said he’s interested in knowing what mission the engine is from.
“It’s kind of exciting,” Cupps said of the recovery. “I don’t know what kind of shape they would be in. I know there’s a lot of stainless steel in them. The tubes are made out of probably pretty noncorrosive metal.”
Bezos wrote online that he plans to put the engine on public display after stabilizing it and restoring it.
NASA administrator Charles Boden congratulated Jeff Bezos and his team on the recovery mission. “This is a historic find, and I congratulate the team for its determination and perseverance in the recovery of these important artifacts in our first efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit,” Boden said in a NASA news release.