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Lab: Lunar Lander

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Directions: The following simulation shows how the combination of multiple forces can result in an overall resultant force.  In this simulation you are going to try and control the decent of the lunar lander and successfully land on the surface of the moon.  You can control the main rocket as well as rockets to tilt your Lander from side to side.  Your goal is to earn as many points as possible. The rules for the simulation are as follows:
  •   Land in as many different flat zones as you can before your fuel runs out.

  • After landing, take off by increasing thrust.

  • No credit for landing in the same zone more than once.

  • More points for landing in smaller or harder-to-reach zones:

    • Easy big zones = 5 points     

    • Killer tight zones = 50 points

  • 10 extra points for a soft landing (v < 2 m/s).

  • Game over if you touch a boulder.  (You canít land on boulders!)

  • Game over if you crash land (v > 12 m/s).


1.      Log onto the following website:  http://phet.colorado.edu/sims/lunar-lander/lunar-lander_en.html

2.      Take turns and experiment with the controls once before you attempt to play the game.  Notice the tables showing vertical and horizontal motion (in m/s), range (in meters), Thrust (in Newtons ), and fuel remaining (in kilograms)

3.      Try clicking on the button so you can see the vectors describing the motion.

4.      Now each of you try your hand at the controls and see how many points you can earn

5.      When you are finished, answer the questions below.

Conclusion Questions:

1.      Were you able to successfully land?                                                                                                                                  

2.      What was your score?                                                                                                                                 

3.      What happened if you did not apply any thrust?  What is the force that accelerated the Lunar Lander  downward?                                                                                                                         

4.      If the force of gravity is only 1/6th that of earth, what is the value of the moons gravitational force?  (SHOW WORK)                                                                                                                                      

5.      What alterations would have to be made if the Lander was trying to land on the Earth? (how would the Lunar Lander react differently?)                                                                                                      

6.      State the two possible states of motion the Lunar Lander could have with the vector configuration below.  What is the net force below?                                                                                                    

7.      What would the resultant force vector look like if the forces on the Lunar Lander looked like this?      Draw the resultant vector on the diagram and mathematically calculate the resultant (HINT: Pythagorean therum)      


8.      If the Lunar Lander started at 1000 meters above the moon and began to fall, calculate the time it would take to crash land.  You will need to use the value of gravity for the moon you calculated in question number 4.  (SHOW WORK)                                                   

9.      If the Lander had a horizontal velocity of 10 m/s in the above problem, how far horizontally would the Lunar Lander have landed from where it began to fall        

10.  Using Newtonís Second Law, explain why it takes less thrust (force) to create the same acceleration as the Landerís rocket engine is being fired over time.



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Website by Duncan Wilson

Page last updated January 07, 2012

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