On April 8th 2016, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral with cargo bound for the International Space Station. Shortly after the rocket launched, the first stage booster came back to earth and successfully landed vertically on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
Why is this important? In the SpaceX Dragon CRS-8 post launch news conference from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Elon Musk discusses the importance of the ocean landing to making spaceflight more available to anyone.
“Rapid and complete reusability is really important to make a rocket cost effective, like an airplane,” Musk said.
If you had to discard an airplane after it had been used once, then air flight would be unaffordable to most people. In the same way, building rockets is really expensive, but if you’re able to reuse them, instead of discarding them, then spaceflight becomes more affordable.