In the past, rockets were disposed of after launching space craft into outer space. Reusable rockets would substantially reduce the cost of space flight.
Some SpaceX rockets have landed upright in test flights that never left the atmosphere. But SpaceX's attempts to travel to outer space and return to upright landings have so far been unsuccessful. The rockets have toppled over while attempting to land on a platform in the ocean.
Blue Origin and SpaceX are two of the main players in the new business of private space launches. Another is Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which hopes to carry passengers to space in a vehicle launched from an airplane and that lands like a plane on a runway.
Bezos said he doesn't consider those companies Blue Origin competitors.
"I think of our competition primarily as Earth's gravity," he said. "Space is a big place. There's room for all of us."
Elon Musk tweeted congratulations to Bezos and Blue Origin early Tuesday. But he also took a dig at Blue Origin. Musk noted that rockets that reach the space station have to go 10 times as fast, and use 100 times the energy, of suborbital rockets that reach the edge of space as Blue Origin did.
"It is ... important to clear up the difference between 'space' and 'orbit,'" he tweeted.
Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO team for achieving VTOL on their booster— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015
Getting to space needs ~Mach 3, but GTO orbit requires ~Mach 30. The energy needed is the square, i.e. 9 units for space and 900 for orbit.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015
Bezos said the part of the rocket (the first stage) that Musk is attempting to land is pretty much the same kind of spacecraft as Blue Origin's.
Bezos said this time his rocket performed exactly as planned, traveling into the edge of outer space before returning.
The rocket's engines reignited at 5,000 feet above ground to slow descent, and it was traveling at only 4.4 mph during its final 100 feet. It landed only 4-1/2 feet off the dead center of the the landing pad.
The space capsule on the top of the rocket that will someday carry space tourists separated from the rocket once it reached space and returned to Earth via parachute.