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:
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.
Back on November 23, Bezos’ own aerospace company, Blue Origin, landed its own rocket:
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.