Stem Activity: Design a Lunar Landing Module

Lunar Landing Module

We have been finishing the moon chapter in our Apologia Astronomy book, and having waaay too much fun!  There was one activity which, thanks to Gary, expanded into a really fabulous STEM activity.  The challenge was to build a Lunar Landing Module out of junk.  I asked if Gary would mind doing it with the girls whilst I worked with Lillie.

Lunar Landing Module

Making a Lunar Landing Module

He began by gathering the girls, sharing pictures of the actual lunar landing module and discussing ideas with them:

Lunar Landing Module

The threesome decided to attach toilet rolls to the bottom of some thick card.  The goal of the toilet rolls was to absorb some of the pressure when the landing module hits the floor:

Lunar Landing Module

The girls stuffed each toilet roll with large marshmallows for extra shock absorbing properties:

A coffee cup became the container for the two marshmallow spacemen.  This was attached to the thick card platform to create their first attempt at a Lunar Landing Module:

Lunar Landing Module

Testing the Lunar Landing Module

The girls went outside to test their Lunar Landing Module with their Daddy.  They started out dropping the module from knee height:

Lunar Landing Module

The spacemen remained safely in their cup capsule:

Lunar Landing Module

Then Abigail tried dropping from her shoulder level:

Lunar Landing Module

and Gary from his shoulder level:

Unfortunately, the spacemen fell out…in fact the whole module fell over.

Making Alterations to the Lunar Landing Module

The girls postulated that maybe the marsh mallows inside the loo rolls actually increased the speed with which the Lunar Landing Module hit the floor thus increasing the impact, which shot the marshmallow spacemen to their death. So the marshmallows were removed and the landings repeated:


Sooo, to further decrease the speed and therefore the force at which the Lunar Landing Module hit the floor, Gary and the girls created a parachute from a plastic bag:

Testing the New and Improved Lunar Landing Module

They tried dropping it from shoulder height and the space men remained safe.  The girls then wanted to try it from a higher height, so they climbed their climbing frame and dropped the Lunar Landing Module:

Lunar Landing Module

Lunar Landing Module

Success!  The space men are still alive!

Gary then climbed atop his truck and dropped it from an even higher height:

Lunar Landing Module

And they died!  Ooops!

Making Final Alterations to the Testing Environment

The three space engineers (as they were now known) ran out of time on that particular day, but had much discussion and planned that the next day they would lie ash on the floor by the truck.  They had figured that the reason it worked with the grass was that the grass acted as a cushion for the Lunar Landing Module to land on.  Gary made the comment that the moon had an ash-like substance on its surface may have a similar cushioning effect.

The next day they spread some ash on the floor and attempted their lunar landing again:

It worked!!

The spacemen were a bit dusty, but they were safely inside their cup module:

The removal of marshmallows from the loo roll, the addition of a parachute and the addition of the ash made the Lunar Landing Module land safely.  Here is the final workable design:

What a great STEM activity!

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