Mystery Bag

Materials for a spacesuit

Materials for a spacesuit

Start a conversation about the best materials for a space suit.

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:

Materials , Animals, including humans

You will need:

Opaque bags and samples of different fabrics, you could include lycra, neoprene, fur fabric, poly-cotton, flannel, space blanket.

Start a conversation about the best materials for a space suit. A tried-and-tested favourite with teachers, spark curiosity and debate with a selection of everyday objects.

Run the activity

1. Several parcels of mystery items have been delivered! How can they tell what’s inside without looking? Some methods they could use: 

  • Feeling
  • Observing
  • Listening
  • Smelling

For this activity, children will need to put their hand inside the bag or feely box so that they can appreciate the different qualities of the fabric samples.

2. All the objects have something in common. They are something that might be useful for an astronaut. Has this changed what they think is in the bag and if so, why? Reveal the items in each bag one at a time.

Background science

The fabrics used to make space suits are highly technical composites, comprising several layers as no single material has all of the properties needed. The fabric needs to be flexible so that the astronaut can move. It needs to be completely waterproof and airtight. It also needs to be warm enough to protect the astronaut from the freezing conditions of space and on Mars. It also needs to be very strong, so that it reliably protects the astronaut as they go about their business; for example, if they were to trip over a sharp rock, it is vital that the fabric does not tear and let the air escape that the astronaut needs in order to survive.

Many of the materials that were originally designed for use in space have come to be useful for life here on earth. For example, some types of non-stick pans use materials originally designed for use on spacecraft and a type of pen that you can use to write upside down and in extreme weather conditions was developed as a result of devising a solution to the problem of using normal pens in zero gravity.

 

The 2020 ExoMars mission is looking for signs of life on Mars. We've got lots of activities to support your own Mars exploration. Read more on our blog! 

Take it further

After discussing the possible properties of the fabric samples, children could be encouraged to test them to see which properties they have and which combinations would be best suited for use as a space suit. You could use the Big Question activity ‘Fit for an astronaut?’ to support this part of the activity.

Image credit: TLaoPhotography via Shutterstock SL