I get nervous every single time I watch a rocket launch. And as a space reporter, I watch a lot of rocket launches.
In all, I’ve probably seen more than 50 launches in person or online, and every single time I get sweaty palms and that tell-tale anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Now magnify that feeling by 10 every time SpaceX attempts to land one of their rockets back on Earth after flying it to space.
It’s an alien looking sight, and if I had my way, it would be breaking news each and every time. I know that SpaceX basically has this whole rocket landing thing down pat at this point, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t always amazing.
I firmly believe that all work should stop during the 10 minutes between SpaceX launching and landing a rocket. Everyone should be watching it at their desks at work, at home, or on their phones.
The Falcon 9 first stage camera follows along as the rocket turns around and makes its descent back through the atmosphere, deploying its landing legs and coming in for a smooth landing on a pad back in Florida or a drone ship in the ocean.
It’s an incredibly difficult thing to describe, even if you’ve watched 19 of them.
So here’s the thing, at 11:46 a.m. ET on Tuesday, SpaceX will launch and then attempt to bring one of its Falcon 9 rockets back to land after launching an uncrewed Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. (You can watch it in the window below or directly through SpaceX.)
If successful, it will be the 20th landing for the company, and I think we should all watch it together. Grab a cup of coffee, make some lunch, and watch as about 10 minutes after launch, SpaceX attempts to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket back in Florida.
Keep in mind that every time you watch one of these landings, you’re seeing something that many people didn’t think was possible.
The booster expected to launch and land on Tuesday first launched and landed in June 2017, so this marks the second time this rocket booster would have been to space and returned back home.
I get that you may not be a space nerd or a tech person. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be any of those things.
I’m not. Sure, I think rockets are interesting, but I got into space reporting because it was the first job I was offered out of grad school and I’ve been lucky enough to keep on the beat for a while.
The truth of the matter is that these SpaceX landings, beyond just being technologically significant, are also somewhat emotional.
We don’t have the option to watch space shuttles carry humans to orbit from U.S. soil anymore, and while the Soyuz launches bringing astronauts and cosmonauts to orbit today have their own kind of magic, they pale in comparison to seeing a shuttle blast its way to orbit.
SpaceX’s rocket landings are as close as we come to that kind of feeling.
These launches and landings also represent what could be the future of spaceflight and our own future in space.
If Musk has his way, reusable rockets will be the basis for all of the company’s big plans to make it to Mars and beyond.
By bringing rockets back to Earth and using them many times over, SpaceX hopes to greatly reduce the cost of flying to space, making it easier than ever to bring payloads and people to orbit and farther out into the solar system.
These 20 launches could form the basis of an effort to branch out into the solar system, well beyond our current reach.
And that, in and of itself, is really, really cool.