The Falcon 9 rocket on Monday night made a perfect touchdown – upright and on hard ground – at Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking the first time for Elon Musk and his team to achieve the incredibly complicated maneuver.
The triumph is a major step forward for SpaceX’s ambition to develop reusable and reliable rocket technology aimed at drastically reducing the cost of space missions, and marks a truly landmark moment for space travel.
The textbook launch and landing was SpaceX’s first outing since June, when one of its rockets exploded on the way to the International Space Station. Tonight was very different. A large crowd watching events unfold at SpaceX’s Mission Control went wild as they witnessed the 15-story booster return to Earth and gently touch down – this time without toppling over and exploding. Push the video above to the 32:20 mark to watch the Falcon 9 rocket come home.
Two other attempts in the last 12 months to land the rocket in the same way ended in failure. But this time everything went to plan. Considering SpaceX’s outstanding achievement, the team’s tweet announcing the historic landing seemed comically cool:
Stage one has landed
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 22, 2015
And NASA, which of course has a major interest in SpaceX’s work, was quick to praise the team for its significant achievement:
Monday night’s mission carried 11 Orbcomm communications satellites into low Earth orbit, with all units successfully deployed within 20 minutes of the rocket’s launch.
As things stand, transporting cargo into space can cost anything from $5,000 to $15,000 per pound. Yes, that’s crazy expensive, and that’s why Musk and his team have been so keen to nail this rocket landing. Reusing the equipment is going to save big time on costs, and once the technology is perfected it’s certain to revolutionize commercial space travel.
As DT’s Drew Prindle said recently, “If SpaceX can figure out this reusable rocket thing, it’ll lower the cost of entry for anyone and everyone looking to get something into space. The proverbial floodgates will be open, and in a few years time, space will be like the wild west — filled with opportunities for anyone brave or enterprising enough to go there.”
Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, last month also managed to successfully land a booster. But while that one was used for a suborbital flight, SpaceX’s is a faster and more powerful machine, and goes deeper into space, making the feat of landing it back on Earth in one piece all the more remarkable.
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