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fly all the way back to the launch site (would seem to be alot of fuel) -
That was my original impression, that you have to continuously burning to actively control the fall. But I recently saw a number that Apollo style capsul's terminal velocity is something around 300 miles/h and they spend several minutes free falling after fireball decelleration. Note "free falling" in this context is different from physical definition of free falling and describe the falling at constant speed of terminal velocity. 300 miles/h is half as fast as horizontal speed of airliners, and comparing to 120 miles/h of skydiving of human body (I'm a skydiver), it is not very fast. So after the supersonic reentry, I assume first stage is already on the trajectory to free fall toward the landing pad only controlled by the fins without any fuel burn. I'm curious what is the terminal velocity of the falcon 9 first stage is, but with empty large volume with little fuel left, and engine cones facing down, I imagine it is not that fast. This phase of landing is abbreviated in their fancy CG, so I too also got impression that they burn fuel from pretty high up, but we also saw one chase plane video of first stage coming down through the clouds without burning any fuel and seems to be in stable free falling.
SpaceX would use portable “port-o-potties” during landing operations.