Thursday, July 08, 2004


The following arrived in my in-box this morning. (I deleted the e-dress of the contest organizer for anti-spam purposes).

Kepler Prize Award Winner 2004 Announced

The Mars Society announces that the first overall winner of The Kepler Prize for Mars Mission Design is team Daedalus, lead by Kent Nebergall. The judging panel decided that team Daedalus provided the best balance of material in answer to the criteria set in the request for proposal document. The prize award includes certificates for team members, a trophy for the team leader, and the chance to present their design to the assembled Mars Society conference in Chicago, IL.

The winner of the college division of the competition was The Personnel Earth Return Vehicle, a design submitted by an aerospace engineering design class at Penn State University. The team captain was Alicia Cole-Quigley. Team members will receive certificates, and the team leader will receive a trophy.

The competition required teams to develop a design for an Earth Return Vehicle (ERV), a critical portion of the Mars Direct mission architecture. The ERV lands on Mars without a crew, autonomously filling its propellant tanks. The crew arrives later and uses the ERV to return to Earth. The complicated power, landing, and deployment stages for the vehicle provided plenty of challenge for design groups.

A total of five teams submitted design documentation in time for judging…three independents (two from the US and one from England) and two college teams. Teams were judged within their division first, followed by a second round of judging between the division winners for declaration of an overall winner. All teams were invited to present their designs at The Mars Society conference this year as part of a 1/2-hour session paper, and some have expressed interest.

Teams took radically different approaches to solve problems associated with the mission requirements. The difference in approaches made it difficult for judges to pick the winner that combined the best of new ideas and old technology to design a vehicle that would work while keeping development costs as low as possible.

Judging criteria included Technical Merit (25 points), Publicity (20 points), Innovation (15 points), Simplicity (15 points), Completeness (10 points), Reliance on Current Technology (10 points), and Team Size (5 points).

As a public outreach project, publicity carried a lot of weight in the judging. At times a team's publicity efforts tilted the scales in their favor.

Currently, the release of reports is up to individual teams. If copies are desired, contact Tom Hill at the email address below, and he will connect interested parties with teams. Teams are encouraged to submit their reports to The Mars Society report archive, and inclusion in a future publication is possible.

The Kepler Prize competition started in 2003, with a kick-off presentation to the assembled Mars Society convention. The goal of the design contest was to get more people thinking about Mars mission design, while in the process producing a workable design for the Earth Return Vehicle. Teams were required to submit a mid-term report of 10 or less pages in December and then a final report of no more than 100 pages on the 1st of June.

Judges for The Kepler Prize included Brian Enke, Dewey Anderson, and the project director, Tom Hill. Frank Shubert provided special support to the project.

There is no Kepler Prize contest scheduled for the 2004-05 year, although others may be held in the future. For more information or to express interest in competing in future contests, contact Tom Hill.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge"
-Albert Einstein

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