Elon Musk had himself a day Thursday.
For the first time in history, his company launched a fully reusable first stage of an orbital rocket.
Then, for good measure, SpaceX landed that rocket for a second time on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Finally—because why not, when you’re on a roll—he attempted to safely return the $6 million payload fairing at the top of the rocket.
Even that met with at least partial success. “This is a huge day,” he commented later. “My mind’s blown, frankly.”
Many minds were blown on Thursday as the 10-story tall first stage launched for the second time, hefting a 4,300kg payload on its way to a geostationary orbit about 36,000km above the Earth, and then returning to the planet.
Blue Origin has done this with the much smaller, suborbital New Shepard rocket. NASA’s space shuttle was mostly reusable—but also the product of a multibillion government program. On Thursday a private company, having invested more than $1 billion of its own funds, reused a large, complicated rocket.
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