SpaceX/YouTube

This footage of Friday's perfect SpaceX landing is simply incredible

What a time to be alive.

FIONA MACDONALD
30 MAY 2016
 

There are a lot of beautiful things in this world, but sometimes the most incredible feats to witness are the examples of human accomplishment, those times when us mere mortals just nail something - whether it's a perfect water bottle flip or landing a reusable spacecraft on a floating barge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

That last one is exactly what SpaceX managed to do perfectly last Friday, for the third spectacular time in a row. But this time, they also released footage of the landing filmed from on-board their Falcon 9 rocket, so it looks like you're riding back down to Earth with the booster. And oh man, it's good. It's so, so good.

The sped-up footage shows the rocket rapidly ascending to high geostationary orbit, which is more than 35,000 km (22,000 miles) above Earth's equator.

At this point in a launch, the first stage booster is usually dropped back into the ocean, never to be used again, but instead, SpaceX lands that first stage on a barge so it can be recovered and used again, saving millions and millions of dollars in the process.

That sounds simple enough, but when you watch the rocket descend from the great heights of space all the way down to a very precise 'X marks the spot' on SpaceX's unmanned barge - adorably called Of Course I Still Love You - you'll get a sense of just how tough it is. 

And it's not only breath-taking to watch, it's also cause for celebration. Building a regular rocket that can make it into space is hard (and expensive) enough, but what SpaceX has done is even more challenging - it's built a reusable rocket that can deliver spacecraft or cargo into orbit, then make it home again, over and over again.

In the long term, that reusable rocket is going to be crucial to bringing down the cost of space travel, and it could also lead to some pretty exciting new possibilities, such as the opportunity to bring our astronauts home from Mars.

But, in the short term, it's been damn hard, and SpaceX has suffered some pretty disappointing failures lessons in the process.

As this footage shows, it's now managed to perfect the landing process, making a very convincing argument that, for the first time ever, reusable rockets will be in our future. And we can't wait to see what's going to happen next.

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