NASA and the European Space Agency are on track to bring the first-ever Mars soil and atmosphere samples back to Earth. Today both space agencies shared an update on exactly how they plan to do that thanks to the Mars helicopter Ingenuity.

Ingenuity’s impact

NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity proved extremely successful on the Red Planet. Before its first flight, there was a real possibility that it wouldn’t actually fly with the Martian atmosphere. Fast-forward to now and Ingenuity logged 29 flights — far beyond what was considered before.

The updated Mars Sample Return mission will rely on two new Martian helicopters based on the design of Ingenuity. Deemed sample recovery helicopters, NASA says the duo “will provide a secondary capability to retrieve samples cached on the surface of Mars.”

Perseverance’s longevity

The predicted longevity of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is also affecting the Sample Return Mission…