I realize this might not be your first thought when watching the video clip, but it really is.
Those seven seconds of carnage were a great sign of success. That Falcon 9, about 10 minutes earlier on January 10th, was sitting on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The pad is 320km to the west of the barge. The barge is 100×300 feet, floating in the ocean.
The Falcon 9 launched, released the upper stage on it’s way to the International Space Station (which arrived flawlessly), and then the first stage managed to navigate itself to that barge.
That feat alone is pretty amazing.
The barge – all 30,000 sq feet of it – is TINY. Getting the Falcon 9 anywhere near it is impressive.
(Consider for comparison something with a landing envelope of say, 5 square kilometers (aka about 43,000,000 sq feet). In spaceflight terms, 5 sq km is an incredibly precise landing. 30,000 feet is 0.07% of 43,000,000 – or about 1500 times more precise.)
And then they almost landed it. If it hadn’t run out of that pesky hydraulic fluid used to control the aerodynamic fins – causing them to lock up – it probably would have made it, or at least come closer.
SpaceX will try again, and that’s what all this is about.
Progress to make launching rockets more cost effective. Progress to find new ways to control rockets in flight. Progress to make them more efficient.
And one day, progress towards being able to fly a rocket to another world, land it, and then come back home with it — because remember, that is Elon Musk’s goal.
Video of that hard barge landing is exactly what progress looks like.