SpaceX Achieves First Successful Rocket Landing at Sea
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After SpaceX's previous attempts to land a rocket at sea ended in failure, the company successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on Friday afternoon on a landing platform in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was a historic landing of a rocket's first stage soon after it launched, and congratulations poured in from around the globe, including from President Barack Obama, who tweeted "Congrats SpaceX on landing a rocket at sea. It's because of innovators like you & NASA that America continues to lead in space exploration."
Landing from the chase plane pic.twitter.com/2Q5qCaPq9P— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 8, 2016
After its launch at 4:43 p.m. Eastern time, the 14-story-tall booster used its remaining fuel to reenter the Earth's atmosphere and touch down on an unanchored "droneship" in the middle of the Atlantic (dubbed "Of Course I Still Love You").
"It's another step toward the stars," SpaceX founder Elon Musk said at a press conference afterwards, according to the Washington Post. "In order for us to really open up access to space we have to have full and rapid reusability."
SpaceX has successfully landed the Falcon 9 rocket on land several times. But achieving a sea landing is important because such landings will almost certainly be necessary for future missions when vessels returning from farther celestial destinations like the moon or Mars approach the the Earth at high velocities.
Today's launch used SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to bring supplies to the International Space Station. It was filled with about 7,000 pounds of critical supplies and payloads for the space station crew, including materials to support research and scientific investigations. The Dragon capsule itself will return to Earth in about a month, when it will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.