On Friday, April 8, a SpaceX rocket booster successfully landed back on Earth after it blasted off carrying a cargo capsule. Following the launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida, the rocket booster, Falcon 9, landed vertically aboard a special drone ship in the ocean. Dragon, the capsule, then successfully carried 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Falcon 9 landing was significant because rockets used to help with space exploration are very expensive, and typically are not able to be used again. Also, this is the first time that SpaceX has been able to achieve a water landing for a booster rocket after repeated attempts. “The rocket landed instead of putting a hole in the ship — or tipping over — so we're really excited about that,” says SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk. SpaceX’s last attempted cargo mission failed in June 2015.
Musk has said that the company’s goal is to make rockets as reusable as airplanes. SpaceX plans to reuse the Falcon 9 rocket again sometime in the next few months.
“It’s another step toward the stars,” Musk said. “In order for us to really open up access to space, we’ve got to achieve full and rapid reusability.”
Dragon arrived at the ISS on Sunday morning with the help of ISS’s robotic arm. The cargo it delivered included crew supplies, research material, and hardware. It also brought an inflatable habitat called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). BEAM will be attached to the space station this Saturday, and will be filled with air at the end of May. After astronauts inflate the BEAM with air, they will spend two years running tests on its conditions. This new technology may change the way that astronauts live in space. NASA also said it could possibly use BEAMs during Mars expeditions planned for the 2030s.