Help With Vernier GO Devices is HERE

BACKGROUND: The atmosphere on Mars is VERY thin... about 100 times *less* dense then the atmosphere of our Earth at Sea Level. It is composed of about 95% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6 percent argon and trace amounts of other elements.

As you might expect, trying to parachute a lander onto the surface of Mars is quite an engineering challenge. According to NASA (, 2 out 3 missions to Mars have failed. Here's how that article summarizes the descent to the surface:

"During the first four minutes into descent, we use friction with the atmosphere to slow us down considerably," says Naderi. "However, at the end of this phase, we're still traveling at 1,600 kilometers per hour (1,000 miles per hour), but now we have only 100 seconds left and are at the altitude that a commercial airliner typically flies. Things need to happen in a hurry. A parachute opens to slow the spacecraft down to 'only' 321 kilometers per hour (200 miles per hour), but now we have only 6 seconds left and are only 91 meters (100 yards) off the ground."

Needless to say, the landing's on Mars are NOT gentle.


We want to send people to Mars, but we don't want them to experience a "hard" landing. We know that parachutes are only marginally helpful so we have to build some sort of container to keep our passenger safe on impact.


Can we successfully model a final stage descent on the planet Mars using classroom materials?

Please consider the following:

0) Parachutes are NOT allowed. Remember, the goal here is to simulate the descent of the probe AFTER it is released from the parachutes described above.

1) You must use the physics principles inherent in impulse to provide measureable data to support your claim that your passenger has survived the landing. The following forumae are common examples of how we describe impulse in physics terms:

J = Impulse = F∆t = ∆p

or more usually

F∆t = ∆p

F = dp/dt

∫Fdt = p


  • F = force (measured in N)
  • = time (the time of the collision measured in S)
  • ∆p = change in momentum which is itself mass multiplied by velocity: (m)(v)
    • mass will remain constant (measured in kg)
    • velocity will change (measured in m/s)

Your investigation must provide measurable data to support your claim that your passenger (an egg!) has survived the descent or data that shows why your passenger did not survive the the descent from the top of the sky bridge down to the pavement below.

I think it might be fun to have a gentle competition here: The group that has the lander with the LEAST mass AND surviving occupants (READ: unbroken egg) wins!

Be thinking about that.... I'll have you folks determine rules and other specifications early next week.