SpaceX Grasshopper rocket hovers, moves sideways like science fiction

Elon Musk’s SpaceX did a test launch of its reusable Grasshopper rocket on Tuesday, and for the first time, the 100-foot rocket lifted off, traveled 300 feet sideways, and then hovered back over the launchpad and settled back down whence it came. It looked like something out of science fiction.

While this fiery hovering does use a tremendous amount of fuel, the technique will reportedly save money. It will allow rockets to be reused, rather than ditched in the ocean or burned up like a blowtorch in the atmosphere after they’re done lifting various spacecraft and satellites into orbit.

Which spacecraft? SpaceX will build this Grasshopper hovering technology into its Falcon 9 launch vehicle — you know, the one that’s already taken a couple of test flights, including cargo runs to the International Space Station. SpaceX plans to make a landing attempt over water with Falcon 9 later this year. In 2014, the big rocket — unmanned — will return from space and attempt a soft landing on terra firma. This we gotta see.

Image and video: YouTube/SpaceX