But why is it different this time? The company founded by tech billionaire, Elon Musk, has already landed its full scale rocket – Falcon 9 – on a drone boat, on 8th of April, 2016. That time, it was a part of a mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Payload of the rocket has successfully reached the ISS, and the landing of the first stage of the rocket was a bonus objective. Cutting the cost of space travel is of course the main reason behind all this.
It was a big success when the first Falcon 9 made its landing maneuver and stood still on the drone ship. This time, even SpaceX was humbly skeptical (in their own mission overview) about the landing, as the rocket was taking a longer, faster journey, meaning it was coming back two times faster than on the last mission. It was so, because this time, the Falcon 9 rocket was launching a Japanese commercial communications satellite (JCSAT-14) some 35,786 km into space. That is considerably further compared to the ISS which is hovering ‘only’ around 400 km above us. And still, a clear landing happened in the middle of the night, in the dark waters of Atlantic ocean. JCSAT-14 mission was yet another unprecedented achievement for the California-based company, which is securing its place among the big players.
Yesterday, a lecture of European Space Agency’s Director General Jan Woerner took place in Bratislava, and it could not go without mentioning the latest achievements of SpaceX. It was the first time a Director of ESA spoke in Slovakia, at the Slovak Technical University.
It was in no way meant to mock Elon Musk, or SpaceX. Quite the contrary, Woerner chuckled when mentioning that skCUBE – the first Slovak satellite – will be carried to space not by ESA’s Ariane 5 rocket, but by SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The audience recognized the joke, as Slovakia’s ESA-membership status is pending. The General Director went into talking about the importance of willingness to fail. The most basic element of science, learning from one’s own mistakes, has to be kept in mind, even at the highest levels of scientific research. Another neat proof of this can be observed on the name of the drone ship, which was ‘catching’ the rocket. It is called Don’t worry, I still love you. Despite multiple crash landings, the SpaceX team keeps up the positive attitude towards their actions, showing the world that nothing is a complete failure, as long as we can extract data from it.
In this case, persistence and stubbornness are traits of the researchers who aim for the stars. Scientists in other fields can perceive this as an inspiring encouragement to proceed in their projects. What SpaceX does, is one thing, but the way they do it…it’s not rocket science.