SpaceX landing hailed as giant leap for space travel – Los Angeles Times

When Elon Musk‘s SpaceX rocket nailed its historic landing at Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Monday night and the enormous dust cloud settled, it was more than an engineering feat hailed around the world.

The Falcon 9’s landing made deep space travel seem attainable again — not just to aerospace engineers and astronauts but to the masses.

Analysts called it a giant step toward a day when rockets are reused like airliners. In turn, that would transform not just the global space industry, but perhaps even where and how humans live in the more distant future.

“Ultimately, he wants to colonize Mars,” said Marco Caceres, a space industry analyst at the Teal Group, of Musk’s often stated goal. “If you begin launching every other day, then no longer does that vision seem so outlandish.”

The success also mints Musk’s credentials — no longer is space just a billionaire’s playground. Real progress is being made toward making spacecraft recyclable.

Last month, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos beat Musk by becoming the first to land a rocket.

Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, released a video showing its experimental New Shepherd space vehicle touching down at its West Texas launch site.


But analysts say that SpaceX accomplished a much more difficult engineering task with a far bigger rocket that was flying faster and higher.

“I haven’t been as excited as this since the moon landing,” said Charles Lurio, a space analyst in Boston. “This is a real breakthrough.”

Making rockets reusable has long been a goal of aerospace engineers because of its potential to greatly reduce the cost of space travel. It would also allow more frequent flights.

NASA‘s space shuttle was reusable, but far too costly.

More recently, NASA has spent little on developing reusable space vehicles, Lurio said. Instead the agency has focused on “monster rockets” like the Space Launch System, which will cost billions of dollars and can be used only once, he said.

America’s commercial space industry, on the other hand, sees reusability as a game changer.

Companies are working toward a future in which minerals are mined from asteroids and tourists book rooms in space. Satellite companies are developing new technologies that would expand their reach and capabilities. But all of the companies have been slowed by the high price of a launch.

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