SpaceX continues its march forward.
While its commercial flights servicing both governmentall and private business demands via its standard launch systems it is also working hard on its Grasshopper program which will eventually (hopefully) result in a completely vertical take off and landing program designed to return the launch vehicle to its launch site autonomously upon completion of its mission.
SpaceX has been ramping this program up bit by bit with short test flights. This most recent test took the Grasshopper up to 12 stories and then returned to its platform. Its funny to watch as at any moment I expect the rocket to turn sideways and explode as was often the case with many Nazi and Soviet (and a few US) launch attempts when they were first starting out. It almost seems unnatural for a rocket to not either shoot skyward or else end in disaster. Watching it land on its gear so softly and without a fuss is an odd thing.
The ability to return to its launch facility in this manner is designed to cut costs and increase the speed at which launches can occur--a necessary step for sending large amounts of equipment, supplies and people to Mars.
SpaceX Launches Grasshopper Rocket 12 Stories High...