Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully launched a new era of spaceflight for a historic facility in Florida on Sunday.
The mission is a routine resupply of the International Space Station, but it is still a landmark moment as the first commercial launch from the spot that also sent astronauts to the moon.
Launch Complex 39A has certainly seen plenty of milestones over the decades, from the launch of the Saturn V rocket and Apollo missions to the shuttle program takeoffs. But it it saw another first on Sunday when a Falcon 9 rocket launched from the pad also returned to land nearby just a few minutes later.
"Baby came back," CEO Musk posted to Instagram alongside a photo of the return.
This launch and landing was originally set for Saturday but was scrubbed in the last minute due to possible issues with the systems that steer the rocket.
After sending a Dragon capsule on the way to a planned Wednesday rendezvous, the Falcon 9 first stage navigated its way back to a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As you've probably heard by now, SpaceX is among the commercial rocket makers building reusable rockets that can actually be recovered after launch rather than falling into the ocean after a single use, as was NASA practice for decades.
The Dragon is packed with 5,489 pounds of cargo that will be unloaded over the course of a few weeks by astronauts and then be reloaded with science and other cargo to be sent back to Earth.
Among the science experiments now on its way to the ISS is one that includes samples of the so-called "superbug" MRSA to see how it reacts to microgravity. Hopefully the answer is anything other than growing rapidly until it takes over the entire space station, a la more science fiction horror stories than I care to count.
The successful launch is the first from the pad to be controlled by an entity other than NASA. Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A has been converted into a new home for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and a future launch facility for the company's Falcon Heavy, the return of astronauts to space from American soil and eventually a gateway to Mars.
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