How rocket ship recycling is fuelling space travel

Space – its possibilities and infinite mysteries – has inspired humankind since time immemorial. With Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps on the moon in 1969, the dream of space travel became a reality – albeit a stratospherically expensive one. Now, with the invention of ‘reusable rockets’, the possibility of more regular (and affordable) journeys into space has been realised.

The concept of re-usable launch vehicles was conceived in the 1950s. Although it wasn’t until the 2010s, when SpaceX invented the Falcon 9, that the world’s first truly re-usable rocket was born. By essentially recycling its most expensive parts, a multiuse rocket hugely reduces the cost of a flight, meaning more can be launched – and more scientific discoveries can be made. But to some, (SpaceX’s Elon Musk amongst them), it also means one very exciting thing: commercial flights into space.

Meanwhile celebrities have reportedly already put their names down on the waiting lists for flights with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. So far, the idea of boarding a plane to the Red Planet remains the stuff of science fiction. But, as with all things left to science and technology, we can only say: watch this space.

Greatest distance travelled from earth by human space flight, achieved by the crew of Apollo 13.