In this guide we'll build an descent vehicle of the sort you might see on a documentary about JPL landing probes on Mars, though nothing so elaborate as the Sky Crane that was used for Curiosity's entry and landing. We'll use a Circuit Playground Express to control a couple small, lightweight servos to deploy wings that will slow it's fall.

What's cool about the Circuit Playground is it has an accelerometer built in, a sensor that can detect motion/movement/tilt. It has the ability to detect when it is in free-fall (gravity is an acceleration!) and when its still. This lets you deploy the wings automatically!

The device is simple and very much a proof of concept, but the idea can be used as inspiration to do something more elaborate. Hey, even JPL starts with a proof of concept!

This project uses MakeCode for the Circuit Playground Express. If you're not familiar with MakeCode, there's an introduction in the Circuit Playground Express guide.

Parts List

1 x Circuit Playground Express
Circuit Playground Express is the next step towards a perfect introduction to electronics and programming.
2 x Micro Servo
Small, light, 180 degree servo.
1 x Lithium Ion Polymer Battery
3.7v 2500mAh LiPo battery. This provides power as well as acting as a counterweight.
1 x Premium Male/Male Jumper Wires
We'll use 3 wires from this, ideally with colors matching the wires on the servos.

Tools and Supplies

  • corrugated cardboard
  • thin bamboo skewers
  • plastic shopping or garbage bag
  • hotglue and glue gun
  • small zipties
This guide was first published on Aug 01, 2018. It was last updated on Aug 01, 2018.
This page (Overview) was last updated on Jul 27, 2020.