When NASA sent Apollo to the moon, it wasn’t critical to the mission to have live TV pictures from the moon – but NASA understood that public support for the mission required it.
This morning, SpaceX launched JCSAT16 into geosynchronous orbit. It is a spare for the JCSAT fleet of 16 communication satellites. Because it is for geostationary orbit, the first stage cannot land back in Florida, but has to land on the drone ship out in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX started streaming coverage about 15 minutes before launch. There was a 120 minute launch window if anything unexpected happened like unacceptable wind speeds.
The Falcon 9 rocket launched on time. They made the point that there is almost no human involvement. The launch computer and onboard computers control every step. The rocket is held in place until all 9 rockets are confirmed to have ignited, and then the rocket is released.
At each step along the way, cameras are sending real time video. They tried something different this time on the first stage landing – rather than burn 3 rockets “at the last second”, they used only one rocket for a longer more controlled burn with more flexibility to correct last minute wind changes and reduce the landing shock. When the smoke cleared, the first stage totally nailed the landing – sitting intact right on the X.