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"Nope, definitely not aliens, "Garcetti wrote on Twitter as he posted an incredible photo".

Residents in southern California could see a rocket launch and hear sonic booms on Sunday evening as part of a historic SpaceX mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County.

The booster put on a spectacular show as it descended tail first toward Landing Zone 4 just a few hundred yards from the rocket's launch stand, deploying four legs and firing up one of its nine Merlin engines, seemingly at the last moment, to slow down for touchdown in a cloud of fiery exhaust. A sonic boom sounds like an explosion or thunder and is the result of shock waves from a vehicle traveling faster than sound.

The primary objective of Sunday's mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX also successfully sent a first stage booster back to the base for the first time.

"Vandenberg LZ-4, the Falcon has landed", a member of SpaceX's launch team reported. SpaceX's landing record now stands at 30 successful booster recoveries, 11 at Cape Canaveral, one at Vandenberg and 18 on droneships. "This is fantastic news", SpaceX launch commentator Tom Praderio said. The spacecraft will set up shop 385 miles (620 kilometers) above Earth and scrutinize the planet using a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument.

The satellite is the first of two that will be used for emergency management and for land monitoring. Flying both satellite constellations along the same orbit supports a rapid response by providing radar readings in emergency situations.

SpaceX has previously landed first stage rockets on land after Florida launches but has not done so on the West Coast.

SpaceX has also been experimenting with a procedure to save additional millions of dollars by retrieving the Falcon 9's fairing, or nose cone. This time, however, the ship - nicknamed Mr. Steven - stayed in port, perhaps due to rough seas in the Pacific.