— -- SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Falcon 9 rocket back on Earth tonight, marking the first time a rocket has launched a payload into space and returned.
Founder Elon Musk has said the ability to reuse a rocket -- which dramatically reduces launch cost -- is something that will help revolutionize commercial space travel.
"I think this is a critical step along the way towards being able to establish a city on Mars," he said on a call with reporters Monday night. "That’s what all this is about."
The company has previously attempted the feat three times, coming close to landing on a bullseye on a floating barge. Tonight was the first time the company attempted to land the Falcon 9 on land.
The landing is a huge victory for Musk and his team, who were sidelined after the explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket in June as it carried the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
The upgraded Falcon 9 stands slightly taller than predecessors at 229.6 feet and has more thrust.
Last month, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his company Blue Origin successfully launched a rocket to a test altitude of 329,839 feet and then landed it near the launch pad in Texas.