Elon Musk gets a lot of attention for potentially revolutionizing the automotive industry with Tesla Motors, but SpaceX is Musk’s truly revolutionary company. SpaceX was founded with the goal of making space travel more feasible, and one of the ways the company wants to do that is by creating reusable rockets. As part of this effort, the company has announced that it’ll be testing a new rocket by landing on a boat… in the middle of the ocean.
The way we send stuff into space hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years: Multi-stage rockets spend their fuel and dump their lower sections as garbage. That’s too wasteful for Elon Musk and his SpaceX company. During the next SpaceX takeoff, planned for either Jan. 6 or 7, SpaceX will try to keep the base rocket section in good shape by landing it — standing straight up — on a barge floating in the ocean. How challenging is that? Consider three things. One, that rocket section, called Falcon 9, is 14 stories tall and will be climbing at nearly 1 mile per second. Trying to stabilize that rocket to guide it back down is “like trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm,” SpaceX says.