A private company, Space X, has, finally, managed to safely land the first stage of its Falcon 9 spacecraft back on Earth in Florida while successfully deploying several satellites into Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 upper stage booster, however, will not be recovered which, of course, makes this spacecraft only partially reusable-- just as NASA's Space Shuttle was.
NASA, of course, operated its partially reusable crewed spacecraft (the Space Shuttle) for
more than 30 years, recovering the reusable space
plane (Space Shuttle Orbiter) and twin solid rocket boosters (SRBs) after every flight. But the dramatically lower cost that was predicted for the Space Shuttle program never came to fruition thanks to a couple of fatal accidents and a high launch demand that never became a reality-- for both commercial and political reasons.
It should also be noted that NASA's cancelled Ares I program was also supposed to have a recoverable and reusable first stage based on the legacy of the Space Shuttle's solid rocket boosters.
The next step for Space X will be to refurbish the recovered Falcon 9 booster and its engines in order see if the first stage booster can successfully fly again and be successfully recovered again. How costly and reliable-- and safe-- a refurbished Falcon 9 booster will be is the next question for Space X. But recovering the Falcon 9 first stage while also successfully launching its payloads into orbit is a major milestone for a private space launch company.
Space X duly deserves to be congratulated for accomplishing this first important phase in its goal towards a reusable space launch vehicle!
"The knowledge that we have now is but a fraction of the knowledge we must get, whether for peaceful use or for national defense. We must depend on intensive research to acquire the further knowledge we need ... These are truths that every scientist knows. They are truths that the American people need to understand." (Harry S. Truman 1948).