In the 21st century space race, Jeff Bezos just leaped ahead of Elon Musk.
Blue Origin, a space company founded by Bezos, yesterday achieved a breakthrough by launching the New Shepard rocket in West Texas, the company said. It travelled 329,839 feet into outer space and then landed upright back on earth.
If that sounds easy, it isn't. What makes yesterday's achievement by Blue Origin so notable isn't the launch — it's the landing.
New Shepard is the first rocket ever to remain intact and land after taking off into space. That success opens the door to reusable rockets.
"Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket," Bezos wrote in a blog post Monday.
As CNN Money reports, rockets have historically been disposed of after launching space craft into space, so reusable rockets could offer substantial cost savings.
Musk has been trying to achieve the same feat under the auspices of SpaceX. On June 28, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded during its ascent to the International Space Station.
Musk called the accident, apparently caused by a failed strut in the rocket's liquid oxygen tank, "a huge blow to SpaceX," according to The Verge.
Russia has also suffered losses trying to launch and land rockets. In May a Roscomos Proton M rocket exploded 497 seconds into its flight and came crashing back to earth, taking a Mexican satellite with it.
Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, and Musk, the CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, are in a fierce battle to make space launches a profitable private industry — and a practical method of carrying tourists to outer space.
Richard Branson also hopes to ferry passengers to space via his company Virgin Galactic.