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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Create Your Own Spacepack

NASA refers to an astronaut's backpack as their life support system. Each pack has oxygen for them to breathe, water to keep them cool and a radio to help them communicate with each other in space.

Celebrate National Astronaut Day on May 5 by creating your own DIY space backpack! Think about the vital features of real-life astronaut spacepacks – oxygen, water and communication – as you design your own for an out-of-this-world adventure.


Materials Needed:

  • Craft supplies (pipe cleaners, buttons, string, yarn, ribbon, pieces of fabric, rubber bands, etc.)
  • Glue
  • Hook-and-loop fasteners
  • Markers
  • Paper
  • Recyclables (cardboard, cereal boxes, plastic containers, plastic caps and lids, egg cartons, soda can tabs, etc.)
  • Tape (duct, masking, transparent, packaging, etc.)


Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Start by drawing ideas for your spacepack. You can use this Spacepack Digital Poster to inspire your design. Dream up any unique features you’d like, including pockets and compartments for storage.
  2. Once you’ve sketched your design, build your spacepack using a cardboard box or other container as a base.
  3. Think about different types of bags with straps and handles, and consider how you might carry, put on or take off your spacepack. Create straps for your pack, and then attach them using glue or tape. If you’re not sure how to make your straps, here are a few ideas:
    • Tear a strip of duct tape and fold it in half lengthwise, sticking it to itself.
    • Loop rubber bands together.
    • Twist pipe cleaner ends together.
    • Attach string, yarn or ribbon.
  4. Consider where on your pack you want to add hook-and-loop fasteners to attach specific items. In space, astronauts use hook-and-loop fasteners as a quick way to attach objects to themselves or to the wall so they won’t float away in zero gravity.
  5. Boost your creativity even more with unique additions like a candy dispenser, a built-in camera or stereo, or a camouflaging, color-changing design. Be sure to share your awesome finished spacepack with your family or friends!


What Are We Discovering?

Space is a fantastic place to look for inspiration for big ideas! National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee Lonnie Johnson once worked as a systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to work on the Galileo mission. In 1987, he returned to JPL to work on the Mars Observer and Saturn Cassini projects. In addition to his impressive professional accomplishments, he continued tinkering in his spare time at home when he invented the Super Soaker®, a bestselling toy that has generated well over $1 billion in sales over its lifetime.

As you added hook-and-loop fasteners to your pack, you were working with the invention of National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee George de Mestral, creator of VELCRO® fasteners. After observing the way barbed hooks of a burr from nature clung to clothing, he got the idea to attach hundreds of tiny hooks to cloth tape, allowing opposite pieces, the hooks and the loops, to be connected to one another. The product’s name is derived from the French words velour (velvet) and crochet (hooks).


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