It's been fifteen years since Elon Musk founded SpaceX with a vision of making rockets reusable in order to make space, and especially Mars, more accessible. He originally hoped to be up and launching recyclable rockets within a few years, but the road to achieving the historic goal turned out to be much longer and littered with the debris of numerous rocket explosions.
On Thursday Musk shared a video compilation titled "How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster" that features two years worth of SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets exploding in spectacular fashion, all set to the theme music from "Monty Python's Flying Circus."
We can always count on Musk to be overly optimistic and unrealistic in setting goals and timelines for meeting them, but he makes up for this flaw by also being reliably transparent about his process, including his failures.
The below two minutes of highly expensive hardware being blown apart in a moment shows just how tough and long the road towards actually achieving something new can be.
One thing or another failed over and over again as SpaceX attempted to land its Falcon 9 boosters, be it running out of propellant or a faulty leg that allowed one rocket to slowly tip over. Watching the latter is an especially painful slow-motion disaster punctuated by yet another dramatic explosion that seems unfair and out-of-proportion given how close that particular landing was to being successful.
And yet, in the final days of 2015, more than a dozen years after declaring its ambitious goals, SpaceX finally landed a rocket on the ground just minutes after it pushed a payload to space, proving that rockets could be recovered to be reused. It wouldn't be until March of 2017 that a SpaceX rocket would actually be reused, however.
"It's been 15 years to get to this point, it's taken us a long time," Musk said earlier this year.
The lesson is clear: Plan for the long-term and for plenty of unforeseen obstacles and setbacks when pursuing your goals. Better yet, anticipate that the whole thing could blow up and force you to start over and over again. But with enough persistence (and billions in the bank helps, too) you can eventually stick the landing.