SpaceX continues to work on reusable rocket technology that should make space access a lot cheaper. Coming back from sending a Dragon capsule on its latest cargo run to the International Space Station, a Falcon 9 rocket first stage attempted a barge landing in the Pacific. It was the first such attempt by anyone.
Unfortunately, it didn’t land on the barge so much as hit it – the rocket stage was traveling too fast. While SpaceX has tried to land Falcon 9 first stages before, it was done on the sea, rather than a hard(er) surface.
While the rocket was unable to sufficiently slow its descent, it did connect with its target. And while not as important as landing in one piece, landing on target is critical to the reusability of the craft. This mission targeted a landing precision of 10 meters, 1000 times smaller than the landing precision target for the water landings.
SpaceX will return quickly to testing, as it has several missions over the next year that provide opportunities to return the first stage of a Falcon 9. While progress may not be smooth, I think by this time next year SpaceX could well be able to soft land on a hard surface on a consistent basis.