SpaceX promised to never give up on reusable rockets, and this week it revealed a new plan to achieve that goal — CEO Elon Musk envisioned a two-stage rocket where each component can return to Earth under its own power, and land gently on the ground like a Harrier jet. This rocket would carry passengers inside a Dragon Capsule, which could connect to the International Space Station before returning to Earth by the same method. Current Falcon 9 systems use parachutes for landing, and the second stage of the rocket is especially difficult to reuse. The video below is a beautifully rendered demonstration of how the technology would work.
In a speech given yesterday, Musk said this technology is "fundamentally required" in order to establish life on Mars. He further explains that reusable rockets would reduce the cost of getting there by a factor of 100. Why go to Mars? Well, nearly all life on Earth has been wiped out before and it might happen again, so the visionary feels that colonizing another planet is the "next natural step." He isn't talking about a small number either — Musk believes at a price of $500,000 per person, we could move 8,000 people to Mars by using and reusing SpaceX rockets. You can watch his entire speech at C-Span2; the action starts at the 8:30 mark.