Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin made history on November 24, when it launched and then landed its New Shepard rocket back on Earth after dropping off a capsule at the edge of space.
It was a big moment for spaceflight, but this is not the first time a company has successfully landed a rocket.
Bezos fired off this celebratory tweet after the launch and landing (his first and only tweet so far):
But another spaceflight entrepreneur, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, was quick to point that this is not the first successful rocket landing. SpaceX actually already did this a few years ago with its series of “grasshopper tests,” when it launched a Falcon 9 rocket a few hundred meters into the air and successfully landed it back on Earth.
Musk couldn’t resist bringing this to Bezos’ attention:
Then Musk got a little sassy and pointed out all the successful tests SpaceX has done, including the grasshopper test and tests over the open ocean. He sounds confident SpaceX will soon stick a landing after pulling off an orbital rocket launch:
SpaceX, Musk noted, wasn’t even the first to land a rocket. That title technically goes to the US Air Force and its North American X-15:
However, the X-15 was a rocket-powered jet (not a traditional rocket), funded by the government (not a private company), and didn’t drop off a space capsule (like the New Shepard).
So while Blue Origin’s achievement is a big deal — especially for paying passengers who want to ride in a space capsule — it certainly isn’t the first time a rocket-powered vehicle has reached suborbital space, then landed safely back on Earth.
We’re still a long way from perfecting reusable rockets, but they’re going to change spaceflight as we know it. If we don’t have to throw away an expensive rocket after every launch, it could significantly reduce the cost of spaceflight and get us closer to making commercial space travel affordable.
As for today’s announcement, the two billionaires may quibble on the details, but Blue Origin successfully landed a reusable rocket that went higher than one ever has before. Your move, SpaceX.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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