An historic, earth-changing achievement took place yesterday. Elon Musk’s Space X successfuly landed a reusable rocket back on earth, after launching 200 km into orbit to deploy 11 satellites. The feat was met with ecstatic applause in the Space X control centre, and refreshingly, spontaneous chants of “USA! USA!” View the dramatic footage below. (To skip to the landing, fast forward to about 9:30.)
What is revolutionary about this is that being able to re-land a rocket will dramtically reduce the cost of space travel. Until now, the technology to reland a rocket simply hasn’t existed. Compare the cost of the Space X rocket, about $60 million, with the cost of the fuel, a few hundred thousand dollars. Although still expensive, this brings the cost of space travel down from prohibitive to manageable.
Furthermore, it rewrites the old equation that says that to colonise outer space, humans would need to expend the entire resources of planet earth. This (always questionable) assertion no longer applies, and the door has opened to harvesting what are, effectively, the limitless resources of outer space.
The XYZ has followed, quite gushingly, Musk’s achievements and failures, whose never-give-in approach is one of the virtues that makes him the greatest human alive. Although he may not fit the exact mould of a Randian hero, his deep commitment to and advocacy for free markets, if heeded, will go a long way to spreading prosperity throughout the world.
Perhaps most fittingly, a smaller competitor, Blue Origin, run by fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos, arguably pipped Space X at the post last month, in landing a reusable rocket. Given it was technically a sub-orbital flight, at a paultry 100 kms high, the debate over who gets the record is almost as thrilling as watching these controlled missiles Musk and Bezos have created. This has led to a little fun and games via Twitter, with Musk responding to Blue Origin’s success with a series of tweets. In turn, Bezos yesterday congratulated Musk with the line, “welcome to the club.”
If this wrestling of egos serves to spur further competition and further advances in technology, The XYZ fully intends to get the jelly. Between them, Musk and Bezos can say to the rest of us, “Welcome back to the Space Age.”