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Soft Landing Challenge

4 minutes

(kids) Three, two, one. I'm Nate from Design Squad. I'm here with...

(Dylan) Our mission is to use craft sticks, balloons, and rubber bands to design an airbag system that can safely land an egg from three feet. Because rovers are fragile like eggs, NASA wants a soft landing, so they won't break. For three rovers, NASA wrapped them in balloons to cushion the impact and let it bounce softly across the surface. That's what we're doing here. Our landers have kinetic energy as they fall. We're trying to dissipate that without crushing the egg.

[sputtering]

My design is having three balloons to make drag. I have two cups with a balloon inside. When it goes down, it scrunches up, and it's almost like miniature airbags. My idea's like a suspension thing. There's a net underneath. The egg's gonna sink into that net.

(Nate) We've got a built-in suspension system. When we step off something tall, we go boing! We're doing the same thing to protect our bodies. Our legs compress, our hips and knees. Instead of hips, knees, and muscles doing it, you're gonna use rubber bands. What I'm building is supposed to land on this balloon to soften the landing for this egg.

(Nate) First, let's use a hard-boiled egg, then we'll put in a raw egg and see if it works. Ready? Yeah. Let's go to the ladder. Oh, man.

See the crack? (Nate) Yeah. What happened?

(Robbie) Instead of hitting the bottom, it hit on its side. The shock absorbers never got to do their job. Holy cow! Did the egg bounce out? Yeah. You built an egg trampoline. It hit the ground, then sprung the egg out 'cause there wasn't a system to retain the egg. I added rubber bands and put this cup here. It would have extra protection if it bounced and hit the top.

(Robbie) I'm just adding extra cushioning so when it comes down however it lands, it's always gonna be shock-absorbed.

(Nate) What's the plan for your egg? By putting tons of balloons on, it can protect the egg better.

(Nate) This is the real test with the raw eggs. Let's do it. Ready? Five, four, three, two, one.

(Nate) That was a soft landing. And the egg survived. Nice job.

It's safe. (Nick) Awesome. Did it survive? It did. Yes! What cool ideas do you have? For directions on building landers and for more activities related to NASA missions, check out our website. All right, guys, let 'er rip. Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Cars use airbags. Packages use airbags. Why shouldn't eggs use airbags too? Students model NASA's airbag landing system in this activity from "Design Squad Nation." They design and build protective covers made of balloons to protect an egg dropped from a height of three feet. Their systems model the airbag landing systems used by three NASA Mars missions. The students use the engineering design process, apply a variety of science concepts, and learn about NASA's exploration of the solar system. Part of the "Design Squad Nation" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 4 minutes

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