NASA is looking for alternative options that will allow it to return samples from Mars to Earth. To this end, the agency has planned 10 studies that will make it possible to realize the plan.

Seven companies will conduct trials lasting up to 90 days, each of which will receive up to $1.5 million from NASA. The agency will then evaluate the research to consider changes or improvements to the sample return program.

The list of companies includes: Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, Quantum Space, Northrop Grumman, and Whittinghill Aerospace, selected from among those who responded to NASA’s request in April.

“Mars Sample Return will be one of the most complex missions NASA has undertaken, and it is critical that we carry it out more quickly, with less risk, and at a lower cost,” the agency said.

In April of this year, it became known that NASA was looking for new ideas on how to deliver samples from Mars to Earth. The previous plan turned out to be too expensive.

With this in mind, NASA officials called on the scientific community and industry to come up with new ideas that would use more proven technologies – and perhaps a simpler process – to return samples.