It comes screaming out of the sky, dropping like a rock at 25,000 feet before it starts to slow down. Soon the engine fires, slowing the rocket even more.

"Engine start we have thrust," the announcer says.

The rocket scientists and engineers at Blue Origin who had been working years for this moment, take to their feet, cheering, as they watch the New Shepard vehicle hurtle toward Earth earlier this month, hoping they are about to witness a historic first: flying a rocket to space, and then landing it vertically, by using its own thrust.

"Two thousand feet," the announcer says.

"One thousand feet."

"Five hundred feet."

They are on their feet now. Screaming. Holding their arms over their head. Jumping up and down.

"One hundred and fifty feet."

The rocket kicks up a cloud of dust. It hovers over the landing site, righting itself.



Why so happy? Well, it was amazingly cool, a stunning feat of engineering and also, simply, graceful. But it also has huge implications for the future of space flight and the economics that underpin human space travel. If Blue Origin can figure out how to regularly land, and reuse, the first stage of its rockets, then space flight becomes much more affordable.

And that's a significant step toward opening up the cosmos to the masses.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin, owns The Washington Post.