The next generation of Mars-bound astronauts, scientists and engineers wowed space experts at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Friday.

  • Middle school students presented 'Generation Beyond' contest
  • Projects aimed to solve problems related to journey to Mars
  • Teams, individuals presented plans at KSC Visitor Complex Friday

It's part of Lockheed Martin's "Generation Beyond" contest, where hundreds of middle school students from across the country submitted problem-solving videos for the upcoming nine-month-long journey to the Red Planet.

The kids will be about the right age when NASA plans to send astronauts to Mars in the early 2030s.

"This is actually the generation that's going to be on those spacecraft and be the engineers developing those systems and the habitats," Lockheed Martin's Gary Napier said.

The group winner was Team Eon of Edison, New Jersey. The individual winner was Dane Soaper, a seventh-grader from Fullerton, California who wants to become an aerospace engineer who works on the NASA rockets and spacecraft headed to Mars.

"There are so many things we don't know, and I want to be one of those people who goes out there and discovers those things," Dane said.

All the winners received $10,000 for their efforts.