Reusable rockets are tough—something SpaceX CEO Elon Musk knows all too well. But seemingly out of nowhere, a company funded by Jeff Bezos—yes, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos—successfully launched and landed a rocket just four and a half feet from the center of a target pad.
Your move, Musk.
For his part, Musk didn’t hesitate to congratulate Bezos via Twitter, but he also downplayed the achievement. After all, Musk’s SpaceX has been at it for the past few years to varying degrees of success, so you’d expect him to throw cold water on such a momentous occasion.
But it’s worth noting that even though SpaceX is on the bleeding edge of reusability, Bezos’s success is a pretty big milestone, too. This is the first time in history a vertically launched rocket has gone to space and landed back on Earth without suffering damage (or being destroyed completely).
“Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission—soaring 329,839 feet and then returning through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad,” Bezos said after the landing. “Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”
Blue Origin, Bezos’s secret company, launched its first rocket earlier this year to little fanfare, and has mostly kept to itself as it worked in secret. But now that it has successfully launched and landed a rocket, the company is showing a full on blitz to celebrate its accomplishment. Hey, look what we did.
There is one small caveat, however, which might rain on Blue Origin’s parade. While the company’s New Shepard space vehicle technically did fly to space, Musk’s SpaceX has more ambitious goals of getting into orbit, which is much more difficult. Meanwhile, SpaceX’s tests have been attempting to land a rocket on a floating barge rather than on land—again, much more difficult. SpaceX has already demonstrated it can land rockets on land as well.
In any case, check out the video above to see Blue Origin’s historic flight. And let the new age space race begin.