Thank God SpaceX Didn’t Crash Again

Forget reusable rockets for a second—a successful return to the ISS is far more important.

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Apr 8 2016, 9:17pm

For the first time ever, a rocket that's been to space has been recovered at sea, a "holy shit" moment for SpaceX that brings us ever closer to our reusable rocket future.

While the Falcon 9 rocket landing on a drone boat is rightfully getting lots of attention, let's pump the brakes for one moment: The most important news today is that SpaceX will successfully return its Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station for the first time since its crash in June of 2015. Humanity can breathe a sigh of fucking relief.

Today's mission was in many ways mankind's most important space mission since May of 2012, when SpaceX originally sent Dragon on a resupply run to the ISS.

That's because if SpaceX had failed on another ISS launch, well, both the company and NASA would be in deep trouble. NASA no longer has any means of getting to the ISS itself, and a second consecutive failed SpaceX resupply attempt likely would have used up the last of NASA's very little remaining goodwill with lawmakers who have asked why the agency has no backup plan for getting to low Earth orbit.

The plan is for NASA to turn low Earth orbit over to commercial companies so that NASA could focus on deep space missions. The agency, and, frankly, the United States, has a lot riding on SpaceX being a reliable partner.

If it had crashed again, there's no chance NASA or Congress would have allowed the company to move forward with its plans to fly astronauts to the ISS.

But, as I mentioned: No backup plan. If the US lost SpaceX as a partner, there's a good chance NASA would be stuck begging Russia for help. Long term, there's a good chance NASA would have had to rethink its entire strategy, perhaps even reconfigure the Space Launch System to do relatively run-of-the-mill shuttles back and forth to the ISS.

So yeah, SpaceX landed the first stage of the rocket on its drone boat Of Course I Still Love You. In a few years we might look back at this as the true beginning of the reusable rocket age. But for now, you can bet everyone at NASA and at SpaceX is just thankful the plan is actually working.

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Landing from the chase plane
Posted by SpaceX on Friday, April 8, 2016