The mission control room at Cape Canaveral erupted in cheers as SpaceX completed a successful vertical landing of the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket, changing the future of space exploration forever.
After two failed attempts to land the first stage of a Falcon 9 in 2015, the third time was the charm for SpaceX.
But why is this such a big deal?
Historically, the first stage of a rocket has crashed into the ocean, making each usable only once. The ability to control the landing will mean that rockets can be reused, bringing the cost of each launch down dramatically, increasing the number of missions that can be done, as well as the competitiveness.
This was no easy feat, as the level of precision required to complete the landing was off the charts.
"It's like launching a pencil over the Empire State Building, having it reverse, come back down, and land on a shoebox in a windstorm," SpaceX explained during the live Webcast.
The success of this mission was some much-needed good news for SpaceX, as a structural anomaly caused a failed launch in June. The event highlighted how difficult space exploration truly is. While it was a disappointment to lose that rocket, it was also a learning opportunity to figure out how to prevent similar situations in the future.
While it is true that another private company, Blue Origin, launched a rocket to the edge of space in November and was able to stick the landing, the feat was more comparable to SpaceX's Grasshopper rocket. The Grasshopper is also used for suborbital travel
The Falcon 9 rocket, however, is a different beast altogether. It is able to launch cargo out into orbit, such as the satellites used during this test, as well as supplies for the International Space Station or even astronauts. While Blue Origin's successful test is encouraging for the space race of private companies, SpaceX's achievements will have incredible real world implications.
Not to be overshadowed by the incredible landing, the second stage of the rocket successfully deployed all of the 11 satellites like clockwork, making the entire mission a picture-perfect success from start to finish.
The entire Webcast of the mission can be viewed here. Jump to 41:45 to see this incredible historic landing.
All images via SpaceX