Speaking of that fellow, Elon Musk, SpaceX has blown our collective minds yet again with one of the most impressively successful experiments I've seen in awhile. The "Grasshopper" rocket prototype is true to its name, literally "hopping" straight up in the air - with its most recent launch coming in at a whopping distance of 1,066 feet!
While the distance is impressive, it's not nearly as impressive as the Grasshopper's landing. SpaceX is being cryptic about its navigation sensors built into the prototype, but they're clearly working. As this jaw-dropping footage shows, Grasshopper can sense when it's nearing ground level and modifies its rockets for a smooth vertical landing:
The implications of this innovation simply cannot be overstated. SpaceX's goal for these rockets involves atmospheric re-entry, but my first thought upon watching this is how much easier it will be landing equipment, rovers, and eventual people on the surface of Mars. Entire, terrible, Hollywood movies have been pitched and produced around the arduous issue of "how do we land on Mars". SpaceX just made it very possible that issue will be the least harrowing problem in an exploration launch.
And none of this is even touching daily transportation vehicles here on Earth. Does this mean the helicopter propeller's days are numbered? Will thruster technology finally have its day in mass production? Will my eyeballs ever go back into my head after seeing this? The future, regardless, looks inevitably fun.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.