I’ve been an enthusiast of space travel and rocket ships since I was a very young child.  I would sit in class and draw rocket ships and lunar landscapes in grade school.  Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov were two of my favorite authors.  Still are.

I was thrilled to learn of a recent breakthrough in our journey to space.

Entrepreneurial genius Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla Motors) and his team at SpaceX successfully launched a super-powerful rocket with a payload of satellites, and then safely landed the booster rocket back on Earth.

You can see the amazing video below.  The team would have celebrated with a champagne toast, except that most of them were too young to drink.

SpaceX lands booster rocket safely on landing pad

Falcon 9 elevation

Falcon 9 elevation

The historic event occurred on December 21, 2015.  SpaceX demonstrated for the first time that a rocket capable of hurling satellites into orbit can return to earth unscathed and ready to be refueled and reused on the next mission. This breakthrough will make space travel much more affordable going forward.

SpaceX has some competition.  Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is also in the space exploration game.

Bezos and his space company Blue Origins completed a similar, but in my view less impressive, mission about four weeks earlier.

On November 23, 2015, Blue Origins launched a rocket named the New Shepard into suborbital space, carrying an unmanned passenger module intended to carry space tourists in the near future.  The rocket returned to Earth and landed safely in an upright position.  The unmanned, suborbital passenger module returned safely to land with the aid of parachutes.  The video of the launch and landing is below.

Blue Origins video of New Shepard flight


These images give a visual idea of the relative size and paths of the Falcon 9 and the New Shepard.

Rockets and Liberty

The Falcon 9, Lady Liberty, and the Blue Origin

Launch vehicles including the Falcon 9, second to right

Launch vehicles including the Falcon 9, second from right

Falcon path

Path of the Falcon 9 by SpaceX

Path of the New Shepard by Blue Origin

Path of the New Shepard by Blue Origin

The space-going billionaires Musk and Bezos have been engaging in a snarky, Twitter-based dialog over the relative value of their space flight accomplishments.  Some have called this a “rocket-measuring contest.”  Reminds me of the saying,

The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.


These fellows have some pricey toys!

See tweets between Musk and Bezos

I thought it was notable that Bezos carried out his New Shepard mission in secret, while Musk announced his intentions to the world before the mission and had everyone watching.  Musk has been consistent in letting the public see both his successes and failures.

Musk says his team has developed an ejection system, designed to get future human passengers safely home in the event of a rocket failure during takeoff.  This sounds like a great idea.

Now that NASA is hitching rides on Russian rockets due to funding cuts, it’s great to see a vigorous competition going on between these two giants of the private sector.  In addition to Musk and Bezos, Richard Branson and his company Virgin Galactic are also active in the space business, working to provide suborbital space flights for adventurous tourists.

Go space explorers!  Got room for one more?  I could design the Martian habitat!