NASA Makes History With Helicopter Ingenuity's First Flight On Mars

It's been called a "Wright brothers moment" that could pave the way to future interplanetary aircraft.

Video Transcript

- Now at 5:30, the little Rover craft that could. NASA takes to social media after its helicopter, Ingenuity, took a historic flight on Mars. With that, space exploration soared into a new era.

- CBS 4's Chris Martinez explains the mission and the reaction here on Earth.

CHRIS MARTINEZ: It lasted just 39 seconds, but that's all it took to make history as the first helicopter to fly on another planet. The four-pound Ingenuity spun up its rotors and rose into the thin air above Mars.


CHRIS MARTINEZ: As the images reached Earth, the NASA team knew it had accomplished a breakthrough.

HAVARD GRIP: To see it now finally happen on Mars, and happening exactly the way that we imagined it, is just a really incredible feeling.

CHRIS MARTINEZ: The flight was recorded by the Perseverance Rover, which delivered the $85 million helicopter to Mars earlier this year. The Ingenuity's onboard camera system snapped its own photo as it hovered 10 feet above Mars, showing a clear image of its shadow on the planet's dusty surface. NASA's elated project manager ripped up her contingency plan, which she prepared in case the mission failed.

MIMI AUNG: We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet!

CHRIS MARTINEZ: The Ingenuity took six years to build. It's just 19 inches tall and had to be light enough to lift off in the thin atmosphere, but sturdy enough to withstand the extreme Martian weather.

STEVE JURCZYK: It's the start of a whole new kind of planetary exploration and we'll build on Ingenuity's success to see how we can deploy this capability on future Mars missions.

CHRIS MARTINEZ: Engineers compared the mission to the Wright brothers' first flight more than 100 years ago at Kitty Hawk, and even attached a bit of fabric to the helicopter from the 1983 Wright Flyer. A nod to the past but a leap into the future. Chris Martinez, CBS News, Los Angeles.

- NASA is planning up to five more flights to test the Ingenuity's abilities.