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Kansas Cosmosphere gets Apollo-era rocket engines

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) -- Parts of rocket engines that boosted Apollo moon missions into space arrived Monday in Hutchinson, where workers at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center's SpaceWorks division will clean, preserve and document them.

The F-1 engines were part of the giant Saturn V rocket used in Apollo moon missions in the 1960s and 1970s. After separating from the upper stages of the rocket, the lower stage containing five F-1 engines broke apart while crashing back into the Atlantic Ocean at 5,000 mph. Parts of two of the engines were raised last week from the ocean about 360 miles off the Florida coast, The Hutchinson News reported (http://bit.ly/Zovqfe ).

Intact, each F-1 engine stood 19 feet tall and weighed 18,000 pounds. The parts arrived Monday in several flatbed trucks and in shipping containers.

The five-member SpaceWorks' team will work with a conservator, a maritime archaeologist and aerospace engineers from Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research and other experts from the University of Kansas.

After the components are separated, they will be flushed to remove ocean debris and prevent further decay. Then they will be cleaned, photographed and documented.

SpaceWorks previously restored Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom's Mercury space capsule, and Odyssey, the Apollo 13 command module from the lunar mission that had to be aborted because of an explosion. They are on display at the Cosmosphere.

Cosmosphere President and Chief Operating Office Jim Remar said in a statement this project will be different because the engine pieces will not be restored with similar-looking or new materials to replicate their original appearances.

"Here, our goal is to conserve the artifacts, preserve the integrity and original materials of the engines and prevent any further damage from corrosion or age. They will be cleaned and documented, and their engineering designs studied with modern scanners and technology. But the engines will not be rebuilt with new materials or replicated in any way," Remar said.

After the project is complete, one of the engines will go the National Air and Space Museum in Washington and the other will go to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.