Conceptual landing of a SpaceX Falcon rocket
There is a design for a "green rocket" that will not make a big impact on the planet, literally. A private space firm, SpaceX, has designed a rocket called the falcon, a reusable payload rocket. Currently, the falcon rocket is sent into space, and after it delivers its payload, the rest of the hardware is discarded.
In the past NASA had recovered and refurbished rocket segments from oceanic spashdown, but their refurbishment process was so labor-intensive that it was more of a financial liability than a money saver. So, how is the falcon project any different think of a rocket launch a reverse a rocket landing? The nearly-empty first stage rocket will reignite some of its engines to turn around and come back to its launch site, and will then land vertically on rocket power, softly, on its tripod landing gear. SpaceX aims to have the second stage also re-enter behind a heat shield on its nose, and do the same vertical rocket landing.
Brute force methods almost always trump the more elegant and complicated solutions. SpaceX's vertical landing is definitely leaning towards a clean and elegant rocket recovery. If this does have some success, we can expect a revolution in rocket procedures.
SpaceX has a near-term goal of being another way to take astronauts to the International Space Station, aside from the Russian Space Program. The long-term vision for SpaceX is round trip human visit to Mars.