NASA Preparing For Historic Flight, Attempt To Fly Aircraft On Another Planet This Weekend

NASA is gearing up for a historic flight this weekend. For the first time ever, the space agency will attempt to fly an aircraft on another planet.

Video Transcript

ELIOTT RODRIGUEZ: Craig, thanks a lot. Looks nice out there. Now at 5:30, NASA is gearing up for a historic flight this weekend. For the first time ever, the Space Agency will attempt to fly an aircraft on another planet. CBS 4's Chris Martinez explains what a successful flight of the Mars helicopter could mean for the future of space exploration.

CHRIS MARTINEZ: Weighing in at just four pounds, the aircraft called Ingenuity is small in size, but it carries some big dreams.

LORI GLAZE: This really is a big deal.

CHRIS MARTINEZ: Lori Glaze is NASA's planetary science director and says the Mars helicopter is a game-changer. The first aircraft ever designed to fly on another planet arrived on Mars in February aboard NASA's latest rover.

LORI GLAZE: This is really going to be consequential if we can really demonstrate that we can fly on Mars.

CHRIS MARTINEZ: Researchers spent years developing the solar-powered twin-rotor machine. Their biggest challenge-- figuring out how to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, where the air is nearly 100 times thinner than Earth's. The aircraft operates autonomously, and if it works, the technology could be vital for future missions on Mars and other planets.

LORI GLAZE: We can use that helicopter or that aerial vehicle to fly over to locations that we can't reach with a robotic rover, a robotic craft, or with humans, even. And there might be places we can't reach or can't get to.

CHRIS MARTINEZ: On the first flight, NASA aims to hover the aircraft 10 feet above the ground for 30 seconds, with each flight after that lasting a bit longer. Ingenuity will carry a bit of our history along for the ride-- a small piece of fabric from the original Wright brothers plane, a token of good luck for an aircraft that could forever change how we explore other worlds. Chris Martinez, CBS News, Los Angeles.