The European Space Agency (ESA) does a fine job of launching rockets into orbit (usually), but is more clueless than its US and Russian counterparts about how to bring them back safely. That lack of savoir-faire is the reason the launch of the IXV experimental spaceplane schedule for 8AM ET today. During the one hour, forty minute mission, a Vega rocket will launch the 16-foot long, 2 ton "lifting body" spacecraft to a height of 280 miles. From there, it'll begin a rapid descent with flaps and thrusters controlling its trajectory. It'll have to re-enter at precisely the right angle to avoid burning up or missing its target, a recovery ship some 3,000 km west of the Galapagos islands.