For those of us of a certain age who grew up watching the likes of Jules Bergman and Frank McGee and Walter Cronkite covering space missions with plastic models to describe what was happening, today’s SpaceX launch was a reconfirmation that we live in interesting times.
First, the Wayback Machine:
Welcome back to 2016, where our coverage includes a couple of TV anchors in T-shirts, a mission control with nary a suit coat in sight and, oh yes, a rocket landing on a ship –called “Of Course I Still Love You” — after it had sent a resupply ship off to the International Space Station.
As with the old days of spaceshots, it remains thrilling to pause and consider what the human mind can accomplish.
Scroll to 26:00 for the good stuff.
Why land on a ship in the ocean?
The Verge’s Loren Grush answers:
SpaceX’s drone ship can position itself in an ideal place to “catch” the vehicle on its more natural path back to Earth. That decreases the distance the rocket needs to travel, as well as the amount of fuel needed to maneuver the Falcon 9 for landing.
For SpaceX missions that use up lots of fuel, performing a ground landing may not even be possible. Rockets that launch heavy payloads or go to a high orbit need extra speed during the initial ascent, and extra speed needs more fuel. Those Falcon 9s that have to reach extra high velocities don’t have as much fuel leftover for the landing. That’s when the drone ship is the best — if not only — option for recovery.