In an unprecedented display of rocket launch, a spectacular video footage showed the SpaceX Falcon 9 soaring up from NASA’s historic moonshot pad, today, while its fist stage flew back to land. The launch was aimed at sending space station supplies from the exact spot where astronauts embarked on the lunar landings nearly a half-century ago. It was the first time SpaceX launched a rocket from NASA’s legendary Launch Complex 39A since the shuttle program ended almost six years ago. The KSC’s historic launch complex 39A was built for the Apollo moon programme in 1960s. It was later renovated for the space shuttles.
In what was more spectacular treat for the viewers, 10 minutes after the after lift off, the fist stage of the rocket flew back to Earth and touched down at SpaceX’s “Landing Zone 1” pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force. And as a huge crowd at Kennedy Space Center watched eagerly as the unmanned Falcon 9 rocket took flight with a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station, here are 10 key things to know:
1) SpaceX landed its leftover booster back at Cape Canaveral several minutes after liftoff, a feat accomplished only twice before. Most of the company’s booster landings _ rocket recycling at its finest _ have used ocean platforms.
2) It was SpaceX’s second launch attempt in a row. Saturday’s effort was foiled by last-minute rocket concerns. The repairs paid off, and even the clouds parted enough to ensure a safe flight.
3) Kennedy Space Center’s director Robert Cabana, a former shuttle commander who flew four times from 39A, was thrilled to see the pad used for commercial flights like this “instead of just sitting out there and rusting away.”
4) It was a momentous comeback for SpaceX. The last time SpaceX had a rocket ready to fly from Florida, it blew up on a neighboring Cape Canaveral pad during prelaunch testing on Sept. 1.
— NASA (@NASA) February 19, 2017
5) Although the company successfully returned to flight last month from California, the focus was on getting leased Launch Complex 39A ready for action given that the pad with the accident was left unusable.
6) Built in the mid-1960s for the massive Saturn V moon rockets, Launch Complex 39A has now seen 95 launches.
7) Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins left Earth from here on July 16, 1969, on the first moon-landing mission.
8) The very first space shuttle pilots, John Young and Robert Crippen, soared from here on April 12, 1981. And in a grand shuttle finale, Atlantis took off from here on July 8, 2011.
9) SpaceX has spent tens of millions of dollars to make 39A Falcon-ready.
10) NASA signed over 39A to SpaceX in 2014 under a 20-year lease.
(With inputs from agencies)