If you’ve ever read in any old time science fiction, you probably encountered a lot of stories where the characters took off vertically in a rocket ship, and later landed in the same rocket ship, vertically. Vertical take off and landing (VTOL) is an old dream. But it’s turned out to be brutally difficult in practice. The Apollo Lunar Modules came close, but in a very low gravity environment, and with stages.
Now, project Morpheus appears to be making substantial progress in this direction. Phil Plait shared these videos on his blog, noting that it uses a mix of oxygen and methane for its fuel, which isn’t toxic, and is “green”.
Plait also opined that this is what NASA should be focusing on, not heavy lift rockets. I agree that Morpheus is what NASA should be doing, but I’m not sure I agree about heavy lifters. We need heavy lifters, and it’s not clear that anyone else will build them, at least not yet.