The time when only nation states could send rockets into space is over. Elon Musk has ushered in a new era and his latest accomplishment is a game-changer.
After two years of landing its rockets after launching, in itself a novelty, Musk's private aerospace company SpaceX on Monday sent up a Falcon 9 rocket that it had used before. This is an important achievement for the company as it's betting on using the same rockets over and over to reduce the costs of its space programme.
After launching the rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and dropping a communication satellite into orbit, it landed on a floating drone ship named "Of Course I Still Love You" in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket had been previously sent to space in April, 2016.
The mission shows what's possible with the new generation of rockets, and what private companies can bring to the table in terms of space exploration. With this rocket recycling, SpaceX has proven that you don't have to have the resources of an entire nation to go to space.
Incredibly proud of the SpaceX team for achieving this milestone in space! Next goal is reflight within 24 hours.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2017
There is another side to this story. Elon Musk has been talking about the possibility of going to Mars and building a colony there, citing the risk of rogue artificial intelligence as a reason.
"We're not one-way trip to Mars people, we want to make sure people can come back," said SpaceX president Gwen Shotwell in a pre-launch interview. "And that means you need a reusable rocket system. The goal is to land and re-launch on the same day. The Falcon 9 rocket used here took about four months to repurpose for reuse." Eventually, this might lead the way to a colony on Mars.