SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has shared the first images from last week's failed Falcon 9 barge landing. Musk tweeted the still frames taken from cameras onboard the drone ship to Doom creator and Oculus VR CTO John Carmack, saying: "It's kinda begging to be released…" Shortly after Musk tweeted out the photos, SpaceX followed up with an incredible Vine of the botched landing. (Don't forget to turn on the audio.)
Musk described the crash as a "Full RUD" or "rapid unscheduled disassembly."
Musk described the attempted rocket landing last weekend as "close, but no cigar" — but this assessment doesn't really do these images justice. The 14-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket is seen hitting the deck of the barge at a 45-degree angle as the four stabilizing fins lose hydraulic power. The engines then fire in an attempt to restore balance but it's too late and the rocket smashes into the deck of the ship. The four images tweeted by Musk can be seen below, who cheerfully sums up the situation: "Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!"
@ID_AA_Carmack Before impact, fins lose power and go hardover. Engines fights to restore, but … pic.twitter.com/94VDi7IEHS— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2015
@ID_AA_Carmack Rocket hits hard at ~45 deg angle, smashing legs and engine section pic.twitter.com/PnzHHluJfG— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2015
@ID_AA_Carmack Residual fuel and oxygen combine pic.twitter.com/5k07SP8M9n— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2015
@ID_AA_Carmack Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day! pic.twitter.com/tIEctHFKHG— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2015
Musk has blamed the crash on the rocket's stabilizing fins running out of hydraulic fuel right before landing, but this is a relatively minor hurdle for SpaceX's engineers. Simply getting the rocket to the barge — a 300 feet by 100 feet target — was a big challenge and we can see that the company definitely managed that.
If the stabilizing fins work as intended in the future, then Musk might certainly achieve his historic goal: creating multi-use rockets that will make spaceflight dramatically cheaper. "Reusability is the critical breakthrough needed in rocketry to take things to the next level," Musk said in October during a talk at MIT. Despite the explosion, these image show just how close SpaceX is.