Early Engineering Successes

In the mid 1970's, NASA engineers sponsored a series of Egg Drop contests across various parts of the United States. The rules were simple; design the lightest possible container that would protect an egg when dropped from 25 feet and land into a four-foot square target. My sister, Georgeann, and I signed up for the contest and created the egg vessels shown below. Mine, dubbed the Egg-O-Plane II, came in first place and Georgeann's no-name contraption came in second.

Here is the irony. In the late 60's and early 70's, both the United States and Russia made multiple attempts to land on Mars. Neither were having any success. Russia's attempt in 1971 to land Mars 2 on the planet ended in a crash but it became the first man-made object to reach the surface of Mars. NASA wasn't doing well with any of their designs at all.
So, was NASA's failed attempts the grounds for seeking out new design ideas from an unsuspecting population by holding Egg-Drop contests? Was this a ruse for coming up with much needed design ideas that could be used in the space program?
I found out years later that our egg-drop designs actually became a reality. My design, which the so-called inventor renamed ROTON, did okay in flight tests but was deemed impractical and was never used in actual missions. Of course, that's not what it was designed for and he got the dimensions all wrong. Georgeann's design, on the other hand, actually made it to Mars. On January 3, 2004, the MER-A successfully landed on the planet. Her contraption has been used ever since.
I'm glad I didn't use my gravity-neutralizing device. The world's not ready for that yet.

Egg Drop


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