SpaceX's experimental rocket Grasshopper has passed its third straight flight test, this time rising 130 feet into the air before softly landing on its four legs.
SpaceX is convinced the way to reduce the cost of reaching low Earth orbit is to develop reusable rockets-- that is, rockets that land safely and in one undamaged piece to be used again after delivering a payload to orbit. It would be a remarkable transition from the raw power and violence of a space launch to the controlled and delicate maneuvering required to bring a rocket stage down and landing it gently and vertically.
Grasshopper is an early step in learning how to do that. So far, it has been so good, but there is still a long way to go.