Grasshopper rocket descends toward landing pad. Credit: SpaceX.
Science fiction fans are loving this.
Back in the 1950's and early 60's it was a staple of Sci-fi space movies to include a group of intrepid explorers in their finned rocket blasting off from their government base, and landing at their destination in a similar manner: On it's tail!
On the Moon: scene from Destination Moon (1950) [George Pal Productions]. Look for astronauts near the base of the rocket for scale perspective.
These days it's SpaceX creating the rocket buzz. The company that has given us the Falcon rocket and the Dragon robotic spacecraft delivering supplies to the ISS, is producing a variant of the Falcon rocket that will be re-useable. Lifting off from its launchpad in McGregor, Texas, the most recent flight saw the Flacon 9 derivative reach 1066 feet (325 meters), hover, then descend to a perfect precision landing at its original pad. Parabolic Arc has the cool video of this event:
Grasshopper in flight. Credit: SpaceX
Currently, Grasshopper uses the Falcon 9 first stage and the Merlin 1D engine. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to fly an advanced version that will reach space, deliver its payload, then carefully re-enter the atmosphere and descend back to its pad. Then it would be refurbished, refueled, and fly again. The designation for this type of craft would be VTVL (Vertical Take-off Vertical Landing).