Tag Archives: Jeff Bezos

Apollo exhibit touches down at Museum of Flight

The folks at the Museum of Flight have done their level best to make their new Apollo exhibit that opened last weekend all about the people who made the Moon landings happen. But there’s no doubt that two enormous F-1 engines that launched people to the Moon dominate the gallery. One is an unused engine that towers 18 feet tall above the exhibit and weighs nine tons. The other is mangled parts of engines from Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 that flew to space, did belly flops from 40 miles above the Atlantic Ocean, and then spent more than forty years some three miles deep before being found and recovered by Bezos Expeditions.

Geoff Nunn

Geoff Nunn, adjunct curator for space history at the Museum of Flight, explains that the Apollo F-1 engines are really, really big. (Photo: Greg Scheiderer)

The exhibit has been a couple of years in the making. Planning started with the opening of the museum’s Charles Simonyi Space Gallery the the acquisition of the Space Shuttle Trainer that is the centerpiece of that gallery. That moved the shuttle, post-shuttle, and looking to the future exhibits across the street, and gave museum staff the opportunity to create a new exhibit that focuses on the beginning of modern rocketry, the space race, the Moon landings, and the post-Apollo 1970s.

Geoff Nunn, adjunct curator for space history at the museum, said they had several objectives for the exhibit.

“We wanted to showcase the tremendous artifacts,” Nunn said at a press preview of Apollo. “We wanted to reintegrate the Pete Conrad collection into the broader story of the space race and the Moon landings. We wanted to showcase these incredible, one-of-a-kind artifacts that have been through so much in their life—through fire and, in the case of the Apollo 12 engines, lightning, and then impact with the sea floor and 40 years deep, deep under water.”

Indeed, the two Apollo engines provide an amazing before and after comparison, and there are other great artifacts on display. The exhibit also features:

  • A production version of the Apollo command module that was used for training
  • An engineering mockup of a lunar rover, built by Boeing in Kent
  • A mockup of the Apollo 17 lunar module ascent stage
  • A Viking Mars lander

The museum has a lot of artifacts from astronaut Pete Conrad, the Apollo 12 commander. Among those on display are a cuff checklist Conrad used to keep track of tasks on the Moon, a mix tape he played on Skylab that includes personal messages from the likes of Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and Tom T. Hall, and a rock Conrad brought back from the Moon.

David Concannon is the deep sea explorer hired by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to lead the search for and discovery of the F-1 engines. (See our story from November 2015 for more.) Concannon, who has also recovered artifacts from the Titanic, was still in awe at the press preview last week.

“These engines tell an magnificent story of a time in America when everybody came together, pulled together to do something magnificent,” Concannon said. “To me, that’s the story that these beat-up, burned-up artifacts tell.”

They tell it remarkably well. Don’t miss it!

A few highlights of the Apollo exhibit (click for larger versions):


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Top five Seattle Astronomy stories of 2015

Happy New Year from Seattle Astronomy! We celebrate the last day of 2015 by looking back on our top five stories of the year, in chronological order.

AAS meets in Seattle

Tegmark

MIT physicist Max Tegmark speaks at the American Astronomical Society meeting Jan. 7 in Seattle.

The American Astronomical Society held its 225th meeting in Seattle in January. The AAS has been on a cycle of holding its winter meeting in town every four years, though there was talk in January of breaking that up and holding a summer meeting here so that visiting astronomers could enjoy our good weather.

The meeting included a wide variety of presentations. Among the ones we covered on Seattle Astronomy:

Astronomy on Tap Seattle

aotlogoThe organizers of Astronomy on Tap have correctly concluded that astronomy is even better with beer. A group of astronomers in New York City created Astronomy on Tap there in early 2013, and a Seattle chapter got to work beginning in March of this year. Led by a group of astronomy graduate students from the University of Washington, they’ve hosted free gatherings at Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company in Ballard every month since. The concept is simple: meet at a bar, have brief and informal presentations about the latest in astronomy, leave plenty of time for Q&A, and have trivia contests and prizes. It’s been so popular that Bad Jimmy’s even named a beer in honor of AoT; their new Scotch Ale is “The Big Sipper.”

AoT is a lot of fun and creates monthly topics for those who blog about astronomy. Follow our calendar, or follow AoT Seattle on Facebook or Twitter to keep in the know.

Cloud Break Optics

Cloud Break OpticsIt’s been a long time since there was an astronomy store run by and for amateur astronomers in Seattle. The drought ended in July when local astronomers Matt Dahl and Stephanie Anderson opened Cloud Break Optics in Ballard. Dahl and Anderson are experienced observers and astrophotographers with plenty of experience to share and a hands-on buying experience to offer. They sell on-line, too, but why not stop by and make some new friends and share in their expert advice?

Fiftieth anniversary of the UW Department of Astronomy

bigbangThis year was a big one for anniversaries: we celebrated 25 years of the Hubble Space Telescope, 50 years since the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, and 100 years since Einstein published his theory of relativity. It turns out the biggest bash of all locally was the 50th anniversary of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington.

The milestone was marked by a series of public events, kicked off by a lecture by renowned physicist Jim Peebles, who talked about what it was like to be on the front lines of figuring out the cosmic microwave background. The Big Bang and Beyond lecture series covered a lot of ground, and featured a guest lecture by alum and NPR commentator Adam Frank. The Origins: Life and the Universe astrobio concert married art and science in an engaging and beautiful way. If you missed the show a CD and DVD are available. We can’t wait to see what the next 50 years bring!

Apollo F-1 engines come to Seattle

Bezos injector

Bezos talks about the workings of the F-1 injector plate. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos went on a quixotic quest to find the Rocketdyne F-1 engines that launched Apollo to the Moon. He found some on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and fished them out in 2013. Last month the historic engines arrived in Seattle, donated to the Museum of Flight.

Bezos was on hand to talk about the recovery mission and unveil the engine parts. A few of the components will be on display at the museum through next Monday, Jan. 4. After that they’ll be in the museum archives until late 2016 or early 2017, when a new, permanent exhibit about the engines and Apollo will be installed.

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Museum of Flight receives F-1 engines that launched Apollo

Forty-six years ago today Apollo 12 became the second craft to land people on the Moon. Today the Museum of Flight received an incredible treasure: parts of the Rocketdyne F-1 engines that blasted Apollo into orbit.

Doug King, president of the Museum of Flight, announces the gift of the Apollo F-1 engines at a news conference Nov. 19, 2015. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Doug King, president of the Museum of Flight, announces the gift of the Apollo F-1 engines at a news conference Nov. 19, 2015. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

The engines were found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 2013 by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and his team from Bezos Expeditions. Bezos requested that the engines be donated to the museum and NASA honored that request.

“This is truly a historic day for the museum, for our community,” said Doug King, president and CEO of the Museum of Flight. “I don’t think it’s too grandiose to say for our country and maybe even for humankind.”

“Exhibiting these historic engines not only shares NASA’s storied history, it also helps America educate to innovate,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden in a news release. “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.”

Bezos said he became interested in science and exploration as a five-year-old watching Neil Armstrong’s first small step on the Moon.

“You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you,” he said. Bezos said he thinks about rockets at lot, and one day it occurred to him that it would be great to find and restore those F-1 engines. The engineers who built them were working to send people to the Moon, and few folks at the time were thinking about posterity.

Expendable stuff

“That first stage with these gigantic engines is expendable; it’s supposed to crash into the ocean, that was the whole plan,” Bezos said.

Jeff Bezos

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos talks about his passion for space and the project to recover the F-1 engines. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“We’re working on changing that plan,” he continued. “I have this space company called Blue Origin; we’re trying to make reusable rockets because we don’t like throwing the hardware away.”

It took Bezos all of ten minutes of Internet searching to find the coordinates at which NASA said the Apollo 11 first stage rocket crashed. The hunt was on.

“That was going to prove to be the only easy thing about this project,” Bezos laughed. It was an incredibly complicated endeavor. Bezos Expeditions put together a team of more than 60 people who are experts in ocean recovery. They searched some 300 square miles of ocean with side-scanning sonar to find the engines and then pulled them out from under 14,000 feet of seawater, where they’d been at rest for more than 40 years.

The parts were restored at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas. Much of the damage to the engines was caused not by their high-speed crash into the sea, but by silt and corrosion from four decades in salt water, though the large and highly recognizable bell-shaped nozzle extensions were badly mangled.

Great museum pieces

Geoff Nunn, the adjunct curator for space history at the museum, said the engines that drove Apollo were marvels of engineering.

Geoff Nunn

Geoff Nunn, adjunct curator for space history at the Museum of Flight, talked about what makes the F-1 engines a special artifact. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“The Rocketdyne F-1 was the largest single-chambered liquid-fueled rocket ever flown,” Nunn said. “Each engine produced over a million and a half pounds of thrust and stood 18 and a half feet tall.”

That’s quite a kick. King said all of the planes in the museum’s entire collection collectively have only half that much thrust. Five F-1s launched each Saturn V.

The first piece unwrapped at the news conference this morning, still in its shrink wrap from Cosmosphere, was an injector plate from one of the Apollo 12 engines.

“The injector plate is really what is key to making the F-1 engine an engine and not just a million and a half pounds of bomb,” Nunn explained. “It’s covered in these minute holes that release fuel and oxidizer in an incredibly precise mixture in order to ensure that the combustion that occurs is smooth and controlled.”

Bezos injector

Bezos talks about the workings of the F-1 engine injector plate. Photo: Greg Scheiderer

Some of the F-1 engine components will go on public display at the museum starting Saturday and will be out until early January. The full collection will be part of a new, permanent exhibit that will open late next year or in early 2017.

For Bezos, finding and restoring artifacts like the F-1 engines is not about looking to the past.

“It’s about today and it’s about the future,” he said. “It’s about building a 21st-century version of the F-1 engine. It’s about building reusable rockets.

“Civilization for many centuries has been getting better and better, and the point of recovering an object like this is to remind us of who we are and what we can do as we move forward as a civilization.”

The video below from Bezos Expeditions tells the tale of the recovery of the F-1 engines from the briny Atlantic.

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