A rocket flying toward the ground is usually a bad sign, but for aerospace company SpaceX, it was a huge success. With engines blazing, the first section of a Falcon 9 rocket returned safely to Earth December 21 after a launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, landing vertically on a platform just down the road.
The landing is a milestone for the company; earlier attempts to land on a barge at sea didn’t go as well. For the latest launch, the rocket stage flew to about 75 kilometers before turning around, leaving the rest of the rocket to deliver a package of satellites into low Earth orbit.
Historically, spent rocket stages have been jettisoned and lost at sea. Reusable stages may greatly reduce costs for future flights.