TODAY

TODAY   |  March 21, 2013

Apollo 11 engines found 3 miles deep in ocean

Forty-four years after the Apollo missions, an underwater search team funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is saying they have discovered two of the Apollo 11 engines 360 miles east of the launch pad and three miles deep. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> now to the discovery of an american artifact from what many consider to be one of the nation's top achievements. a team in the atlantic ocean believes they have found two engines from " apollo 11 ," the rocket that first landed man on the moon. kerry sanders is at the kennedy space center . good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. you know, 44 years later and the " apollo " missions are still captivating our imagination. that's the mammoth saturn 5 rocket there. and as you look on the back there, those are the f-1 engines, five of them in each stage. as the rocket would leave earth's gravity, it would release those stages and the engines would fall back to earth splashing into the ocean, disappearing forever until now.

>> reporter: three miles deep in the ocean, lost until now. two saturn rocket engines from america's space program .

>> three, two, one --

>> reporter: engines that lifted a nation in the space race with the soviet union .

>> we have a liftoff.

>> reporter: to this day, the engines that thundered the " apollo " missions to space are the most powerful ever built.

>> you're looking good.

>> reporter: and as the world watched in wonder in 1969 , a little boy from miami tucked away a question. what happened to those engines that fell back to earth? that boy was jeff besos who founded amazon and became a billionaire and who privately funded the search for the " apollo 11 " engines. he writes in a blog, we've seen an underwater wonderland, an incredible sculpture garden of twisted f-1 engines. one that serves testament to the apollo program . the discovery was made 360 miles east of the launch pad. counted down ten " apollo " liftoffs.

>> liftoff, liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour.

>> it was a magic moment in our country's history, there's no question about it.

>> reporter: why do some believe this artifact, if it is from " apollo 11 " to be so special?

>> it was the last great american venture, " apollo " reaching the moon.

>> that's one small step for man --

>> and today, anything that we can get from that era, from those flights and especially the first flight that landed on the moon is fantastic for the american people to have.

>> reporter: now, it's expected that those engines that have been recovered will be brought back to a port not too far from where i am right now. nasa has already congratulated besos. what will he do with the artifacts? likely eventually put them on display.

>> great story. nice to see jay barbery also, a legend in his own right.