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down to earth

Watch: The moment that might just have changed spaceflight forever

If at first you don’t succeed…

spacex Youtube / SpaceX Youtube / SpaceX / SpaceX

FOR THE FIRST time ever, an unmanned rocket has raced up to space and landed back to earth safely.

The 15-storey tall SpaceX rocket blasted off and delivered 11 small satellites into space before coming back down.

The feat could potentially be revolutionary for a space industry that is striving to drive down costs and open up space to more people.

Since the advent of space travel, rocket boosters have been completely disposable. Usually being dropped into the ocean as the shuttle or craft reaches orbit.

SpaceX has been trying to change that and has been delivering satellites to space and supplies to the International Space Station for some time.

Until now though, their efforts at bringing the new generation rockets back safely had been unsuccessful.

Billionaire owner Elon Musk could hardly contain his excitement. 

It’s a revolutionary moment. No one has ever brought a booster, an orbital-class booster, back intact.

What’s significant is that this was a useful mission, Musk noted, not merely a practice flight.

“We achieved recovery of the rocket in a mission that actually deployed 11 satellites,” he said.

SpaceX employees broke into cheers and chants, some of them jumping up and down, following the smooth touchdown nine minutes after liftoff. Previous landing attempts ended in fiery blasts, but those aimed for an ocean platform.

Musk said he ran outside and heard the sonic boom of the returning booster just as it landed, he assumed it had exploded. He learned the happy truth when he went back into launch control and saw video of the standing rocket.

“I can’t quite believe it,” he said. “It’s quite shocking.”

Musk said the landing appeared close to perfect and the company “could not have asked for a better mission or a better day.”

The top officer at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Brigadier General Wayne Monteith, noted that the returning booster “placed the exclamation mark on 2015.”

This was a first for us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and I can’t even begin to describe the excitement the team feels right now having been a part of this historic first-stage rocket landing.

- With reporting from Associated Press

Read: This revolutionary rocket will have to wait to try a risky new way of landing >

Read: Video shows moment SpaceX rocket crashed down on ocean barge >

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