The Mars Society announced today that it is initiating an annual open spacecraft design contest. Named the Kepler Prize after the great renaissance thinker who first derived the laws of celestial motion based on observations of the planet Mars, the award for the winning team each year will be a trophy and two crew slots in the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station. In addition, the winning team will be invited to present its work at a plenary session of the Mars Society’s international convention. The contest is open to all individuals and teams who want to contribute their ideas in Mars mission design. For its first year’s contest, the Kepler Prize will be given to the team that presents the best design of an Earth Return Vehicle (ERV) for use in piloted Mars missions. In the contest, participants will propose their design for the ERV and have it judged based on set criteria and mission requirements.