SpaceX Dragon Recovery
Photo credit: Gene Blevins/LA Daily News(via Spaceflight Now)

I had the good fortune to witness one of the final launches of the Space Shuttle last year, and it was an awesome experience. The Shuttle was an incredible vehicle–a triumph of engineering–with an infinitely complex and expensive support infrastructure.

So I was pretty excited when I saw this photo of the recovery of the SpaceX Dragon capsule today. Why? Because of the guy on the ladder. Specifically, because that ladder is clearly a regular ladder wrapped in foam pipe insulation and blue masking tape. If this had been a NASA project, he would be using a $10,000 custom climbing device made by Boeing. Instead, it looks like a late-night project supported by the local True Value store. It speaks volumes to what is possible.

This is the future of space exploration.