As Elon Musk knows all too well, it’s not unusual for rocket launches to fail.
And SpaceX has a library of those failures, even celebrating them in a greatest hits compilation not too long ago as a example of how success comes for those who can learn from their mistakes.
But you very rarely get to catch one live, tumbling down near your town:
Technically, the Long March 3B launch wasn’t a failure. What you’re seeing above is the booster after it kicked away from the rocket about 700km from its launch pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
But it is very likely the booster wasn’t meant to threaten civilian lives. It’s why most launches are held over the sea or over areas where humans generally don’t build houses.
And if a booster for some reason is expected to crash down where people can see it crash down, alerts – which are admittedly in a bit of a bad place right now – are usually sent out.
Engadget reports that this incident – and another in 1996 where a proper rocket actually hit the town of Xichang, killing at least six – could be seen as a problem China has been dealing with since the Cold War.
Secrecy concerns meant China set up launch pads as far away from international and sea borders as possible, and statistics say that usually puts a small town or village somewhere in danger. China is still in the process of building better, safer launch pads for the modern age.
You can read more about that here.
Here’s the booster after it hit Earth:
Here's the end of the close-up video of the booster that fell from the Long March 3B today. There's bang then everyone runs away. Gets them away from the hydrazine for a while at least… pic.twitter.com/CbYKkDsvsO
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) January 12, 2018