About 2 minutes prior to me writing this on Dec 21, 2015, SpaceX just made history by landing the first stage of an orbital rocket. Congratulations to SpaceX for this marvelous feat of engineering. Their hope is that this will significantly reduce the cost of access to space and catalyze a new wave of innovation in space.
While this is certainly a phenomenal progression in mankind’s quest in space, have caution before proclaiming the next paradigm shift. Don’t forget that the US Space Shuttle had the same goal, and some optimistic individuals even claimed that it might bring the cost of space access down to $10 per pound into orbit. Due to the long refurbishment process, the Space Shuttle ended up sending cargo to space for around $10,000 per pound.
Of course, the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Space Shuttle are entirely different machines using entirely different strategies for re-usability. Personally, I’m rooting for SpaceX to usher in a new golden age of low cost space access.