Successful first stage landing - grab the poster
On 21 December 2015, Falcon 9 made its 20th flight.
Most of these previous flights had a clear goal for SpaceX's customer, launch a satelite.
But SpaceX ha da secondary goal, one that would prove vital for the company's future: to retrieve the first stage after landing.
Starting in 2013, SpaceX had started out by doing controlled ocean touchdowns to perfect the first couple of pieces.
Here was the whole puzzle they were trying to put together:
In January of 2015, SpaceX made the first attempt to land the first stage on a solid surface, a droneship:
The sixth first stage landing attempt (after 4 ocean landings and one filed droneship) was also not successful.
The seventh first stage landing test, Falcon 9 Flight 20, would occur on a landing pad. Take a look how that went:
After perfecting this launch, the next target was to perfect the landing on a droneship.
SpaceX Falcon 9 First-Stage Landing Poster
This photograph was taken seconds before the first successful first-stage landing of the Falcon 9
Today, SpaceX performs first stage landings on a routine basis. it's batting total is 20 out of 25. And all of those failures were part of the early attempts.