Dude, they totally did. I’m not even joking you, bro.
To cleanse the palate, I had to decide between blogging this and blogging Ben Carson talking about how “horrible” Trump’s polling is and whether maybe he needs an intervention on Twitter, so I went with the option that doesn’t involve a terrible flaming wreck. If you follow space news even casually, you know what this is: It’s the Falcon 9 reusable rocket designed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX outfit, and it’s not the first time they’ve hit the bullseye. It is, however, the first time they’ve hit a very small bullseye floating in the ocean. The previous five attempts were all failures. Not this one.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 8, 2016
It’s all about precision: The barge was anchored, but the ocean is the ocean. They were aiming at a moving target.
Ray Lugo, director of University of Central Florida’s Space Institute compared landing on a barge to an airplane landing on an aircraft carrier.
The rocket must make corrections related to how the carrier sits in the water, he said.
“It’s rolling and pitching in the water,” he said. “You have to bring in a vehicle [rocket or airplane] in a controlled manner and land it softly. It’s a difficult problem to solve.”
This wasn’t just a test either. It was the back-end of a mission up to the International Space Station to deliver, among other things, an inflatable “space house,” which if successful could become a model for bases on the moon — or Mars.
No need to get too science-y to enjoy this, though. The appeal is simple: You’re watching a giant arrow behave in a way physically that arrows aren’t supposed to behave. It’s mesmerizing.