Student Features

Egg-Scape Basket
Student Pages

Background Information

Astronauts practicing an emergency evacuation from the Orbiter
Every facility needs an emergency escape plan. Space Shuttle astronauts practice for an emergency escape from the Orbiter. The space term for this maneuver is called an emergency egress. Should an emergency situation arise, astronauts have several options for quickly exiting the crew compartment area, depending on how far the launch has progressed.

Image to left: Astronauts practice emergency escape procedures. Credit: NASA

When the Orbiter is on the ground awaiting liftoff, astronauts have access to the Emergency Exit System. It's positioned 59 meters (195 feet) above the ground, at the same level as the Orbiter Access Arm, and includes seven baskets suspended from seven slidewires that extend to a landing zone 366 meters (1,200 feet) to the west. After the astronauts climb into the baskets, a braking system, catch net and drag chain slow, and then stop the baskets as they slide down the wire. The angle of the slidewire causes the baskets to move the astronauts as far away from the Space Shuttle as possible. The braking system stops the baskets from hitting the ground too hard.

The challenge is to design an Emergency Exit System to get your crew of raw eggs (egg-stronauts) to the ground quickly and safely using no more than three braking systems. Your team will be competing against all the teams in your class.

  • Raw egg (one per team member)
  • One empty and cleaned juice or milk carton
  • Scissors
  • One piece of nylon fishing line
  • One large metal washer
  • Yarn or string
  • Stopwatch
  • Optional materials as provided by your teacher

  1. Brainstorm how your group will decorate the egg-stronauts to compete in the Best-Looking Crew competition. Remember, Shuttle crews always wear the same flight suits, but the rest is up to you. You will decorate your eggs at home, so be creative!
  2. Construct an Egg-scape basket to carry your Egg-stronauts from a pretend Orbiter (top of ladder) on the launch pad to a safe landing zone on the ground. Follow the specifications below.
    • Cut the top off of an empty rinsed carton. This will be your basket. It can be no more than 5 centimeters (2 inches) deep.
    • Use only four pieces of yarn or string to connect the basket to the metal washer.
    • No padding can be placed inside the basket.
    • You may decorate the outside of the basket.
  3. The team will be given precut nylon fishing line. This will be your slide wire that will extend from the Orbiter to the landing zone or ground.
  4. Review the Background Information. Brainstorm ideas that could be used for braking systems for your basket. See specifications below.
    • Up to three different braking systems may be used.
    • Maximum points will be awarded for using three systems.
    • Once your basket is launched, it may not be handled until it is safely touching the landing zone (ground).
    • Keep in mind that all teams are competing against each other for the fastest time to complete a crew escape. (Hint: You do not have to put all your eggs in the basket at once!)
  5. Each team must have an Emergency Exit Plan ready for competition. It is recommended that you practice outside the classroom to test your design.
  6. Listed below are the criteria on which you will be judged.
    • The overall time to complete the crew escape from the Orbiter
    • The number of braking systems used
    • The number of cracked egg-stronauts that your crew suffers
    • The creativity in decorating your crew
    • The speed of your egg-scape basket. See the speed chart on the next page.

    Average Speed





  7. Record the speed for every run of your basket on the chart. It is up to each group to determine the number of times to send the basket from the Orbiter to the ground. Keep in mind that all teams are competing against each other and the goal is to get all your crew to the ground safely (without cracks).
  8. Clean up any crew crack-ups!
  9. Refer to the diagram to see how the competition site will be set up.
Image to right: Construct a test area with a ladder, a slide wire and cinder blocks. Credit: NASA Set-up drawing for egg-testing experiment