Every time Elon Musk and SpaceX manage to land a used Falcon 9 rocket on one of the company’s two droneships, it’s a huge achievement. It’s pretty easy to see that getting anything into space and then back again is tough, let alone putting a tube-shaped rocket on a droneship the size of a football field in the middle of the ocean, but most of the pictures of SpaceX landings don’t give you a good sense of scale. It’s easy to look at them and forget that Falcon 9 rockets are really, really dang big.
The most recent version of the Falcon 9 is 230 feet high, or a little more than 70 yards — it’s basically two thirds of a football field standing on its end, or the same height as a fourteen or so story building in a big city. But the wide-angle cameras that capture the rocket’s landings on SpaceX’s two droneships, Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read the Instructions warp the rocket’s sense of size. Check out this photo SpaceX tweeted right after this weekend’s successful landing.
It doesn’t look that big, right? The whole droneship looks to be about the size of a helicopter pad, and the rocket looks maybe the height of a house or so.
Launch photos like that one definitely show that the rocket is big, but it’s tough to put that scale in perspective until you see it with a reference point every person knows — a tiny shrimpy human being standing next to it, utterly dwarfed by the massive spacecraft.
That incredible shot first cropped up in August of last year, which means it’s probably from the August 14, 2016 launch which landed on a droneship successfully (although the company’s next launch didn’t go so well). It blew up on Reddit yesterday, shortly following the company’s successful landing this weekend.
Look at the tiny, puny humans next to the giant explosion tube, and marvel at the fact that some of us will eventually ride on top of it into space.