Space.com provides the great news: Wow! SpaceX Lands Orbital Rocket Successfully in Historic First. On December 21 SpaceX successfully launched 11 satellites into orbit. The secondary objective was to recover the first stage.
On the third attempt to do so, they successfully landed the first stage booster on land. After (not if, but when) they figure out how to do this routinely the cost of a space launch will drop radically. Article says the drop in cost could be in the range of a factor of 100.
One of the commenters on the following video gave this comparison: The flight on 12/21 is like launching a pencil over the Empire State Building, slowing down, and landing softly inside an area the size of a shoe box.
Article points out Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, successfully recovered a booster November, but that was a suborbital flight. The SpaceX success was on an orbital flight, which is far more difficult. Both achievements show tremendous progress. That two different companies have succeeded in recovering a booster is fantastic.
You can see a replay of the live coverage of launch, nailing the first stage landing, and deployment of 11 satellites. I watched that video shortly after the news went out on Twitter of the successful recovery.
The view from a helicopter as the first stage lands is the first video above.
Very, very cool. Now that’s rocket science.