NASA may deepen cooperation with private companies for missions to Mars

NASA is considering whether to work with commercial partners to get to Mars.
And while SpaceX is the "elephant in the room," NASA is keeping its doors of opportunity wide open.
It's a notable change, as it's the first time the space agency has openly raised the possibility of working with private space companies to reach Mars, The Byte reported.
But this is also not surprising, since NASA has already selected key industry players to reach the surface of the Moon.
And judging by the agency's existing cooperation, especially when it comes to landing a Starship spacecraft on the lunar surface during its upcoming Artemis 3 mission, it seems almost certain that SpaceX will offer its services.
Commercial planet
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) issued a public solicitation in the form of a 496-page document for new ways to expand its existing commercial space program to the Red Planet this week, offering up to $200,000 for a single study on one of its reference missions .
In other words, JPL is having companies bid on different ways to accomplish the missions described in the document.
The proposal suggests the possibility of using "existing or soon-to-be-existing" commercial space systems to "accelerate the exploration of Mars." Not surprisingly, JPL is also hoping for "significantly lower costs while maintaining acceptable risk."
JPL is also looking to find new ways to boost communications between Earth and Mars, as well as improved orbital imaging.
Given that SpaceX is only mentioned twice in the entire document, it's clear that the space agency is deliberately trying to keep the doors open to other players in the private space industry.
"I'm curious to see if this request will bring many new players to the table, or if the unique challenges of Mars combined with the low commercial value will only attract the established players on the red planet," said former NASA Mars scientist Tanya Harrison Arce.
To be clear, given the small scale of the latest proposal, NASA is simply testing the waters to see if collaborating with another private company — SpaceX or not — makes sense during future missions to Mars.
But given the space agency's already fruitful collaboration with the Elon Musk-led company, it's an approach that could pay off in the long run. /BGNES