On April 8 of this year, a historic first in space travel was achieved. The private space exploration company launched one of their Falcon 9 rockets for a delivery mission to ISS, which the detachable Dragon capsule successfully performed. However, the truly important part of this mission was the successful vertical landing of the rocket back to Earth on a barge.
The company has already performed a vertical rocket landing previously. However, they have tried four previous times to land it at sea on a barge; they failed each time. This time though the ship made a successful landing back onto the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS), which is a large unmanned seafaring ship that resembles a barge.
Not only did SpaceX land the rocket, but they did so in a way that means the rocket will be reusable. In fact, there are plans to reuse this very rocket in future launches. Being able to use a rocket multiple times makes space travel significantly cheaper. Building the Falcon 9 rocket cost around 60 million dollars, a cost that they can avoid be landing and reusing these rockets. The only costs that remain to launch these again are fueling the rocket, for around two hundred thousand dollars, and for doing minor repairs to rocket for approximately half of a million dollars per launch. Over all that means each launch that reuses rockets, instead of building new ones, saves 59.3 million dollars. That is a whopping 98.8% of the cost saved.
There is major importance on cheapening the cost of spaceflight. One of the biggest obstacles of space exploration and space travel is the mere cost of getting into space. This cost, as previously stated, ranges from millions of dollars all the way to the one billion dollars and higher. However, if spaceflight could be cheapened even past the current point a whole world of possibilities open up. Not only could governments, private companies, and scientific agencies carry out countless experiments more than before possible, but one day space flight could be opened up to consumers. SpaceX founder, CEO, and CTO Elon Musk has said that he hopes to not only help colonize Mars through affordable spaceflight, but also to open up to spaceflight to the average person.