Yesterday SpaceX's Grasshopper experimental rocket pulled off its most stunning flight test maneuver yet, one that for almost any other rocket would have been the herald of disaster. It took off from its launch pad, then leaned over dramatically as it rocketed some 300 feet off to one side as it hovered at a mere 750 feet in the air. Then it corrected itself, flew back to its initial trajectory, and landed daintily on the concrete pad.
Grasshopper is a testbed for SpaceX's future rocket designs, and this week's test is perhaps the best demonstration yet of its amazing powers. Unlike other traditional rockets, which burn out in stages as they fly their payloads into space and are typically discarded as one-use technology, Grasshopped is more like a Space Shuttle: After it's flown into space, it's designed to be reused.
Remember that Grasshopper is as tall as a 10-story building, and then compare it to this recent Russian rocket-gone-sideways accident to see why the new test is impressive:
[Image via SpaceX]