Washington: In a bid to broaden participation in the exploration of the Red planet, NASA has called for a new, privately-owned communications network to be set up on Mars.
The US space agency has released a Request for Information (RFI) - a formal paperwork seeking public development of a new system.
"The new network would use a commercially-managed network of satellites orbiting Mars to communicate with rovers on the surface," NASA said in a statement.
Communication between the Earth and rovers on Mars is rarely carried out directly.
Data is usually sent to orbiters high above the surface of Mars.
These larger vehicles relay the information to mission controllers back on Earth, via high-gain antennae.
The new move is likely to encourage private companies to develop new technologies for use in the system where lasers could be used for the network.
"The new model could be a vital component in future science missions and the path for humans to Mars," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, was quoted as saying.
NASA currently maintains a pair of orbiters at the Red planet capable of carrying out high-speed communication with Earth.