Touchdown Challenge

Possible Standard Alignment

3.P.1 Understand motion and factors that affect motion


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

I can compare the speeds of objects that travel the same distance in different amounts of time. 3.P.1

I can infere changes in speed or direction resulting from forces acting on an object. 3.P.1.1

I can explain the effects of earth's gravity on the motion of any object. 3.P.1.3

What do Astronauts Do? What Dangers do they face?

Answer these questions in your journal:

Why do astronauts need space suits? Why is it dangerous to be an astronaut?

What problems do engineers face when they design a landing pod?

For the Mars missions, NASA engineers had to design a way to safely land the rover on Mars. One BIG problem they had to solve was figuring out how to slow the rover down from 12,000 mph to 0 mph in 6 minutes.Click on the link below and watch the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) video to find out how they solved the problem.

Content Research

Potential and kinetic energy—When the lander hits the surface, its motion (kinetic) energy is changed into stored (potential) energy, which gets stored in the shock absorbers.

Acceleration due to gravity—Lander accelerates (speeds up) as it falls due to the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Air resistance—Air exerts a force on the lander as it falls, slowing it down.

Measurement—Kids measure the various heights from which they drop the lander.

Misconceptions: Students may have difficulty recognizing the lack of air resistance on the Moon due to the lack of an atmosphere. It is important to compare the Earth and Moon to allow students to research how they might modify their designs for use on the Moon or even other planets like Mars to account for different atmospheric conditions.

How do NASA engineers solve problems?

NASA engineers work in teams to figure out out how we can explore space. They follow the Engineering Design Process to creatively solve problems.

Challenge: Imagine and Plan/Design a Landing Pod that will descend 8 feet and safely land two marshmallow astronauts on the floor.

Materials You Will Have Available


 1 piece of stiff paper or cardboard (approximately 4 by 5 inches (10 by 13 cm)

 1 small paper or plastic cup

 3 index cards (3 by 5 inches (8 by 13 cm)

 2 regular-size marshmallows astronauts

 10 Cotton Balls

 3 rubber bands

 8 plastic straws


 Scissors

 Tape

Use As Many or Few Materials as you like