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A team led by Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos has confirmed that the engines it retrieved from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean belong to the Saturn V rocket that took the Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon 44 years ago.
In March, they made headlines by going 14,000 feet below the sea surface and coming back with two of the Saturn V first-stage engines. On Friday, they announced that a conservationist had managed to uncover the identification markings on one of the five engines - a serial number "2044."
In a blog post published Friday, Bezos described the process of bringing the numbers to the surface from under layers of buildup: "One of the conservators who was scanning the objects with a black light and a special lens filter has made a breakthrough discovery - '2044' - stenciled in black paint on the side of one of the massive thrust chambers. 2044 is the Rocketdyne serial number that correlates to NASA number 6044, which is the serial number for F-1 Engine #5 from Apollo 11. The intrepid conservator kept digging for more evidence, and after removing more corrosion at the base of the same thrust chamber, he found it - 'Unit No 2044' - stamped into the metal surface."
NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said the engine's identity was confirmed using data retrieved from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
The confirmation proves that the F-1 engine, developed by the rocket engine company Rocketdyne, was used to carry the first astronauts to land on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took humanity's first steps on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.
Bezos, who has had a fascination with spaceflight since childhood, financed a team of specialists under the umbrella of his venture capital investments firm, Bezos Expeditions, to retrieve the engines from the Atlantic Ocean. (Space-flight company Blue Origin is among those investments.)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wished the team "all the luck in the world" in March 2012, after Bezos contacted NASA to let them know about the mission.
NASA retains ownership of the artifacts the team recovered. Both parties also agreed that the first engine recovered would be offered to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and the second engine would be made available to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.