Parents, Educators & Engineers

Touch Down

Materials (per lander)

  • 1 piece of stiff paper or cardboard (approximately 4 x 5 in/10 x 13 cm)
  • 1 small paper or plastic cup
  • 3 index cards (3 x 5 in/8 x 13 cm)
  • 2 regular marshmallows
  • 10 miniature marshmallows
  • 3 rubber bands
  • 8 plastic straws
  • scissors
  • tape

We Challenge You To...

...design and build a shock-absorbing system that will protect two "astronauts" when they land.

Brainstorm and Design

Think about how to build a spacecraft that can absorb the shock of a landing.

  • What kind of shock absorber can you make from these materials that can help soften a landing?
  • How will you make sure the lander doesn't tip over as it falls through the air?

Build

  1. First, design a shock-absorbing system. Think springs and cushions.
  2. Then, put your spacecraft together. Attach the shock absorbers to the cardboard platform.
  3. Finally, add a cabin for the astronauts.Tape the cup to the platform. Put two astronauts (the large marshmallows) in it. (NOTE: The cup has to stay open—no lids!)

Test, Evaluate, and Redesign

Ready to test? Drop your lander from a height of one foot (30 cm). If the "astronauts" bounce out, figure out ways to improve your design. Study any problems and redesign. For example, if your spacecraft:

  • tips over as it falls through the air—Make sure it's level when you release it. Also check that the cup is centered on the cardboard. Finally, check that the weight is evenly distributed.
  • bounces the astronauts out of the cup—Add soft pads or change the number or position of the shock absorbers. Also, make the springs less springy so they don't bounce the astronauts out.
Touch Down picture