Going down, not up: Musk's vision for the future of reusable rockets: powered landings. Credit: SpaceX.
After atmospheric reentry, but before touchdown, conventional logic dictates that the spacecraft you're riding in would deploy a parachute. I mean, that's the only sensible way to safely land a spacecraft with no wings, right?
Well, if you were paying attention to Elon Musk's announcement at the National Press Club in New York on Thursday, you'll know that SpaceX isn't necessarily following conventional logic.
The private rocket-building company wants to not only land its Dragon spaceship under rocket power alone, they also want to build a two-stage launch system that will - wait for it - be 100 percent reusable. How does Musk propose he'll do this?
I think the only way to explain is to watch this animation:
(Playing Muse's "Uprising" in the background is awesome, in my opinion. I'm sold.)
If seeing is believing, a future Dragon capsule (not the one currently under development to launch supplies for NASA to the space station) will be outfitted with boosters to facilitate a controlled descent. And the two stages of the launch vehicle will return to Earth - direct to different landing pads - also under rocket power alone. Not a parachute in sight.