On Monday night, Elon Musk and his company SpaceX made history by vertically landing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket after blasting off into orbital space:
As the aerospace world ignited with praise for Musk and his SpaceX engineers, Jeff Bezos, currently the chief of rival rocket-builder Blue Origin, reminded the world Blue Origin was already a member of the vertical-landing club:
Back on November 23, Bezos’ own aerospace company, Blue Origin, landed its own rocket:
Bezos and Musk, two of the world’s most successful CEOs with vast corporate empires and billions each (Bezos, $46.7 billion; Musk, $13 billion), are racing to win the commercial space race on a few fronts: Contracts with NASA and adventures in space tourism among them.
After Bezos landed his rocket in November, Musk couldn’t let Blue Origin revel in its own glory. He critiqued the landing of Blue Origin’s New Shepard with a few snarky subtweets of his own, pointing out that Bezos’ rocket only reached suborbital space:
Musk started SpaceX in 2003 with the ambition of colonizing Mars, something he feels is necessary to prolong humanity’s existence amid a likely global calamity.
SpaceX also plans on sending astronauts to the International Space Station as early as 2017.
The Falcon 9 managed a two-fold accomplishment on Monday: The rocket’s landing back on Earth is notable because — yes, it landed — but also because while in space, it actually had work to do: Falcon 9 delivered a payload of 11 satellites into orbit for ORBCOMM, a machine-to-machine communication provider, making it the first rocket to land after reaching orbital space while simultaneously fulfilling a contract. Bezos’ New Shepard simply blasted off into space to see if landing was possible.