Can you imagine visiting another planet? Aeronautical engineers imagine it every day and are getting closer and closer to making it happen! When our astronauts landed on the moon for the first time in 1969, they weren’t sure of the conditions and needed to be ready for anything. One thing that was really important for the engineers to plan for, was the force that something lands with. Can you design a lander to softly deliver your astronauts to their destination?
- Measuring Tape
- Paper Cup
- Cotton Balls
- Paper Clips
- Rubber Bands
- Cardboard (4x5 inches)
- Index Cards or Cardstock
- 2 Large Marshmallows (Your Astronauts!)
- Any other materials you want to use!
1. Challenge your family or friends to a space lander building contest! The person who builds a lander that can keep their marshmallow astronauts safely inside the ship at the highest drop wins! (Or make your own rules!)
2. Sketch out your prototype on paper first. Do you need shock absorbers? Wings or a parachute? Legs? How will you control the force of landing and keep your astronauts safe?
3. Use your cardboard as your base and decide what to build from there.
4. Try out your design! Remember, engineers learn the most from their failures, so be sure to try out a variety of designs.
5. Measure a distance to drop your lander from. Start low, maybe 12 inches off the ground? Keep increasing the height and observing your results. If you are challenging others, try everyone’s lander at each height and eliminate designs until you have a winner!
6. Take time to observe and talk about everyone’s designs. What did you try that worked? What didn’t work? Did it give you more ideas for your next try?
What happened? When an object falls, the force – or energy that it is falling with – can be calculated using a mathematical formula:
This energy (E) changes with how much mass (m), or how heavy the object is, gravitational pull (g), and the height (h) from which your drop it. The energy is transferred when it hits the ground.