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SpaceX Barge Landing

Yesterday SpaceX landed a first stage on a deck barge in the Atlantic, in heavy seas and high winds. That was a historic moment, at least as important as, for example, the Gemini rendezvous, and probably at least as confusing to explain. Most of the world, if my facebook feed is any indication, didn't notice, or didn't understand. Many, if comment threads are any indication, didn't even believe it had happened at all.

As landmark firsts in human spaceflight go, the first suborbital spaceflight, the first orbital spaceflight, the first orbital rendezvous, the first lunar orbit, the first lunar landing, the first deployment of a lunar rover, the first shuttle launch, Skylab, the ISS, Virgin Galactic's X Prize win, and the first SpaceX flight that wasn't paid for with Elon Musk's personal funds are pretty key. This one is at least as important, and it opens the door to a whole host of possibilities.

Now, I'm aware that's a pretty bold statement. In fact, last night I was arguing with a friend in a bar, and he told me outright that I didn't know what I was talking about and that I must have just read some breathless press release from Elon Musk.

Let me begin with the more facile justifications, and then move on to the more technical explanations of why this is so important.

First. A commercial enterprise just successfully landed the first stage of a rocket they designed and built themselves on a ship in the Atlantic and recovered it for reuse. They did not do this for the sake of whimsy. They're a commercial enterprise. They did it for profit.

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