The Slatest

SpaceX Just Landed a Freaking Rocket on a Freaking Barge in the Middle of the Ocean

Jubilant SpaceX employees, and the successful rocket landing.

SpaceX screenshot

Finally, definitive proof we live in the future: SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private space company, just successfully landed a reusable rocket on a robotically controlled barge in the middle of the ocean.

This is the fifth time SpaceX has attempted such a landing, with previous tries ending quickly in an impressive fireball or the rocket just gradually tipping over (and then an impressive fireball).

This is the first time a reusable main-stage rocket had ever been successfully landed at sea. Musk’s hope is that reusable space flight could drastically reduce the cost of a ticket to space, and Friday’s success is a major step on that path.

Here’s video of the historic achievement:

As Kate Tice, one of the millennial co-hosts of the broadcast (who was wearing an “Occupy Mars” T-shirt), said in the minutes following the landing: “My face hurts so much right now, I can’t believe it.”

So why did it work this time? The weather. Friday was a beautiful day off the coast of Florida, with winds of only a few miles per hour—the best weather of any of the five attempts so far. Since landing the rocket on the barge isn’t the primary part of Friday’s mission (safely getting a new expandable habitat module to the International Space Station is), Friday’s weather back in Florida was just extra good luck.

That new habitat module is pretty impressive in its own right: It’s a demonstration of future inflatable space station parts, which would greatly reduce the cost of building things in space. For example, an orbiting space hotel—a revenue stream that could enable companies like SpaceX to quickly build clout and resources for the first big human push beyond Earth’s orbit—could be a stepping stone to mining asteroids, or, one day, living on Mars.

Like I said, the future.