When SpaceX successfully pulled off its first Falcon 9 rocket landing in December, I knew it was something I had to see for myself someday. I watched through my computer screen as the 14-story vehicle delicately floated down to SpaceX’s landing site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, almost as if gravity was just a minor inconvenience. I was jealous of all the people who got to watch the touch down from the Florida coast, and I made a point to attend the next ground landing.
I knew it was something I had to see for myself someday
I didn’t get that chance for a while, since nearly all of SpaceX’s rocket landings this year have been at sea, too far away to be seen easily from shore. For the company’s first six launches this year, each vehicle has tried to land on one of the company’s autonomous drone ships floating in the ocean. Landing the rocket this way is sometimes the only option for SpaceX, since the technique requires less fuel than a land landing (which we explain here). The company has had a lot of success with its ocean landings in 2016 — and a few explosive results as well.
So when SpaceX announced earlier this year that it would finally attempt another land landing for its ninth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station in July, I decided to head down to Florida to see it in person. And I wasn’t disappointed.