Over the past two years, SpaceX has been working to make its rockets reusable by landing the vehicles upright after they launch to space. Many of those landing attempts have been successful, but since we live in a world where the word “fake” has seen a big resurgence in people’s vocabulary, a lot of skeptics think that all these landings were completely fabricated by the company. There’s a healthy contingent of truthers out there who pore over the footage of landings, pointing out inconsistencies in the videos. Some simply argue that landing videos are clips of rockets taking off played in reverse.
Last night, CEO Elon Musk revealed he has a good sense of humor about the conspiracy theory, when he replied to a fan’s question at the ripe time of 1:42AM ET.
@elonmusk Is there any reason that most of the landings appear to have been at night so far?— John Brinkman (@sc00bs) February 17, 2017
As we all know, sarcasm and nuance are extinct in the 21st century — surely some people are running wild with this “news” already. But perhaps tomorrow’s launch will help silence the SpaceX skeptics out there, since the landing will be a bit different this time around. It’s the first time that SpaceX will land one of its Falcon 9 rockets on solid ground in broad daylight.
For most missions, the Falcon 9s attempt to land on a floating drone ship in the middle of the ocean. However, SpaceX does have a ground-based landing zone at Cape Canaveral, aptly named Landing Zone 1, where the vehicles can touch down. Not all of the company’s rockets are able to return to the site after launch, though, so SpaceX has only tried landing there twice in the past couple of years. Both of those attempts were successful, though they both occurred at night.
But tomorrow, SpaceX will try to land its Falcon 9 at Landing Zone 1. Lift off is scheduled for 10:01AM ET and landing is scheduled for 10 minutes afterward. That means those at Cape Canaveral will be able to see the rocket take-off and land in full daylight. And as we all know, it’s much harder to CGI a rocket landing when the Sun is out.