Hawthorne's SpaceX team successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket last night from Cape Canaveral in Florida, putting 11 new satellites into space. That wasn't the milestone accomplishment of the night, however. Several minutes after the launch, the first stage of the rocket that just launched came back into view and landed straight up on the ground in Florida. In Hawthorne, the team went a little crazy and SpaceX founder Elon Must took to Twitter.
11 satellites deployed to target orbit and Falcon has landed back at Cape Canaveral. Headed to LZ-1. Welcome back, baby!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2015
Another view of Falcon 9 first stage approaching Landing Zone 1 pic.twitter.com/i5oNfSYmrc— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 22, 2015
SpaceX had tried to land Falcon 9 first stages twice before, both times on an uncrewed "drone ship" hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. On each occasion — once in January 2015, and then again in April — the booster stage hit its target but came in a little too hard and crashed on the ship's deck.
Today's landing was a milestone moment for SpaceX, which aims to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets as a way to open the heavens to exploration. Such technology could slash the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 100, potentially making Mars colonies economically feasible, Musk has said.
Mars settlement is no idle dream for Musk; he established SpaceX back in 2002 primarily because he wants to help humanity become a multiplanetary species, Musk has repeatedly said.