SpaceX finally did it. The pioneering company in contract with NASA to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station managed yesterday to vertically land its Falcon 9 rocket on a landing pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The capability to vertically land rockets like the Falcon 9 suggests a near future where such rockets will be able to be reused — as opposed to the current practice of jettisoning them into the ocean after launch — thus drastically reducing the cost of getting into low-Earth orbit.
Yesterday's landing is a breakthrough for the company, which has failed repeatedly in the past to accomplish the difficult feat and only last summer had an unmanned rocket explode shortly after takeoff.
Long exposure of launch, re-entry, and landing burns pic.twitter.com/Vw1ZJAtvhy— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 22, 2015
As noted by Wired, yesterday's successful landing follows on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's Blue Origins' successful efforts to vertically land a rocket. However, Blue Origins' New Shepard rocket did not go into orbit as the Falcon 9 did — something which is considered to be significantly more difficult than the straight up and down shot accomplished by the New Shepard.
The video of yesterday's launch and landing was made available by SpaceX (the landing part starts at 32:25), and you should really watch it — the enthusiasm felt by the company's engineers is contagious.