The private space enterprise SpaceX has done something many thought it would never do: after a successfully launching a resupply mission to the International Space Station this afternoon at 4:44 pm Eastern, the Falcon 9 booster stage returned to Earth, found a robot barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean scarcely any bigger than it is.
After a perfect flight, the Falcon 9 makes a perfect, perfect landing. No kaboom. And the crowd goes wild.
As of this writing, the payload is safely on its way for manual pickup by the manipulator arm on the ISS. They still have to check the Falcon 9 over to make sure the first stage module didn’t somehow break itself during the landing, but things look pretty good. Is this the dawn of a new age in space travel? It’s too early to tell whether this will change the affordability of orbital launches, since we have to see a few more successful landings in a row before we can be confident in the technology – but it’s possibly portentous that the name of the robot barge Falcon 9 landed on is “Of Course I Still Love You”.