THINGS TO DO AT HOME: Make an astronaut lander with your child

In this composite image from 1969, astronaut Buzz Aldrin can be seen coming down a ladder from the mission's command module (or lander). Shortly after this series of images was taken, Buzz Aldrin became the second person to walk on the Moon. Image credit: NASA

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory details how parents and their children can build an astronaut lander at home.

1. Brainstorm

Consider how you will softly land your “astronauts” using the allowable materials. What kind of shock absorber can you make from these materials to help soften a landing? How will you make sure the lander doesn’t roll while falling through the air or tip over when it lands?

2. Design a shock-absorbing system. 

Think about springs and cushions. The two regular marshmallows (your astronauts) must be inside the cup. Sketch your design. Note: The cup has to stay open – no lids!

3. Build the lander

Using your design as a guide, assemble your lander.

4. Test, evaluate and redesign

Drop your lander from a height of one foot (30 cm). If the "astronauts" bounce out or the lander tips over, figure out ways to improve your design. Study any problems and redesign. Then test again to see if your new design solved the problem.

5. Take it higher

Drop your lander from progressively higher heights (two feet, three feet, etc.). As problems arise, study them and redesign. Then, test again.

A video tutorial and a lesson plan for the activity can be found at www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/project/make-an-astronaut-lander/

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