In the years and centuries to come Elon Musk hopes that historians will look back on this week as a turning point in his bid to colonise Mars.

The billionaire entrepreneur predicted a “huge revolution in spaceflight” after his company SpaceX flew a used rocket into space and back — a pioneering feat that marked the culmination of 15 years’ work for the former physics and business graduate.

Recycled rockets were once derided as an impractical flight of fancy but they are at the heart of his — and others’ — vision to drive down the costs of space-travel and make it viable on a much grander scale. SpaceX’s refurbished Falcon 9 booster took off from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.