SpaceX on Sunday launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the same historic launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center where NASA sent astronauts to the moon and hosted the beginning and end of the shuttle program. A few minutes later at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station the first stage of that rocket did something NASA never even attempted: it came back in for a soft landing on Earth.
The first launch from 39A since the last Shuttle launch in 2011 is certainly a milestone, but the landing that followed is nothing less than the continued normalization of science fiction into science reality. The successful rocket recovery was the third at Cape Canaveral, in addition to five more landed at sea on unmanned drone barge landing pads.
The weather was cloudy with low visibility for the launch and landing Sunday, but SpaceX parked a drone in the air near the landing pad to capture the above video that Musk shared on Instagram. The rocket stage descends from the clouds, deploying its landing tripod and nails its target near dead center.
It's hard not to watch the looping video and dream of where else we could soon be landing rockets or other spacecraft. No wonder Las Vegas has odds on SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk to be the first to take us to Mars.