Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos has achieved a world first this week — sending a rocket 62 miles (100 km) into space and landing it safely on the ground, upright, fully intact, and ready to be re-used. In the past, rockets have been treated as disposable, simply collected and thrown away after launching a spacecraft. Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, hopes to significantly lower the cost of space travel and eventually take tourists into orbit.
“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” said Bezos stated in a press release documenting the event. “Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission—soaring to 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. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”
Watch the video below to see footage of the historic launch:
Blue Origin isn’t the only company to try to land returning rockets upright — Elon Musk’s SpaceX has also experimented with with reusable rockets. SpaceX has been able to safely land its rockets after some flights within Earth’s atmosphere, though so far none of its flights to the edge of space have resulted in a successful landing.
Now that the rocket design has been validated, Bezos plans to run a series of test flights with the eventual hope of offering trips to the edge of space for civilian “astronauts” who want to experience the thrill of space travel. Each flight in the New Shepard craft would be able to hold six people and allow passengers to experience several minutes of weightlessness before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. While Blue Origin is already taking names for its waiting list, there’s no word yet on when seats are expected to open up, or how much each trip will cost.
Images via Blue Origin