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12-year-old designs Mars habitat to win nationwide contest

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WESH — A 12-year-old California boy won a nationwide contest for his designs of a Mars habitat.

Dane Soaper would jump into a spaceship now if you gave him a chance. Most kids would.

The difference is that he designed his own — and it won a nationwide competition.

"I'd like to do aerospace engineering, and be able, hopefully, to become an astronaut. That's my main goal," Dane said.

The Fullerton, Calif., middle-schooler presented his design at the Kennedy Space Center to a panel that included a space engineer and an astronaut.

Lockheed Martin, the builder of NASA's new Orion spaceship, aimed the competition at kids Dane's age.

"Use excitement about going out into deep space and get them to start pursuing those science and engineering careers," said Gary Napier, corporation manager with Lockheed Martin.

NASA hopes to mount a Mars mission in the 2030s, which means today's middle-schoolers are the right age to be a part of it.

One of the big features of Dane's ship is a gravitational ring.

"The gravitational ring allows an artificial gravity like Earth, so you can keep your bones strong. You can do all the daily needs like you do on earth," he said.

"Seeing some of the ideas that these kids had, it makes some of the engineers go, you know, that's kind of a cool idea, we need to maybe think about that a little more," Napier said.