For the past 15 years, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has been the great mystery of the space industry. The rocket company, founded by the Amazon.com chief executive officer, received attention because of its super-rich backer and the occasional test-launch video that wowed space geeks. For the most part, though, Blue Origin avoided publicity and, frankly, didn’t seem to be accomplishing all that much relative to its peers—namely, Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But it’s now very clear that Blue Origin is ready to move into the limelight and that a modern, thrilling space race is well underway.
On Monday, Blue Origin sent its New Shepard ship into space and brought the body of the rocket back down to earth. The spaceship landed just four and half feet from where it took off, despite 120-mile-per-hour crosswinds. “Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” Bezos said in a statement. “Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”