From Leonardo da Vinci’s pyramid design in the 15th century to the supersonic version that helped land the Perseverance rover safely on Mars, the parachute, a device that catches air to control an object’s speed, has played an essential role in land, air, water and space travel. For all of the technology and resources that go into launching a spacecraft out of Earth’s atmosphere, it is the simple parachute that is key to safely landing it. A parachute’s canopy creates drag or air resistance, which means that the air below is pushed up against the underside of the canopy and slows its rate of descent.
Now it’s your turn to make a parachute using newspaper and tape. Some tips: Be willing to make adjustments. Try varying the size of the canopy and the weight of the basket to see how those adjustments affect the rate at which the parachute falls. Let the basket hang freely so it can center itself. Open the canopy as much as possible before releasing, and use the lifting stick to get your parachute as high above your head as possible. Pull out the stick, stand back and watch the fundamental concept of drag at work.