Lunar Lander - Johnny Astro game


The Lunar Lander Senior Technology project lifts off at the Science Fair...

Built by Year 12 Physics students Andrew Downes and John Marriner

The levitating Moon Lander

We thought it would be interesting if we could use the same principle behind the levitating Solar System to make a game. I could use this to teach various Physics concepts and the students could have fun at the same time. When I was a kid I had a game marvellous game called 'Johnny Astro' . I challenged the students to recreate it!

A fan mounted on a joystick provides an air stream that can pick up our "space ship". A variable resistor permits the "pilot" to control the amount of thrust and hence lift exerted on the ship as it hovers over the moonscape.

With skill and a little luck, the pilot can manoeuvre the Lunar Lander ship out of the launch crater and fly it over to the Landing Zone, visible as a set of landing lights in concentric circles.


Andrew, a Year 12 Physics student from Inglewood High, with the clever game that requires skill and concentration...



Moon landing...

The Lander ship under a controlled descent drops gently into the Landing Zone. John and Andrew used a PICAXE-08 to make the landing lights (LED's) flash in alternating patterns. A sensor will play a tune or sound effect if you make a perfect landing!

The Inglewood High students were awarded a 2nd Prize in the Senior Technology section of the 2003 Fonterra Taranaki Science & Technology Fair.



The prototype model system worked brilliantly!

We were able to use this project to teach

  1. Electronics
  2. Mechanics (forces)
  3. Computer programming

Until we upload construction details try this yourself: Get a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer and get it to blow air straight up (vertically).

  • PREDICT: Ask your students "What will happen when I place this inflated balloon into the air stream?"
  • OBSERVE: Place the balloon into the air stream and let it go!
  • EXPLAIN: What is happening (seniors might like to consider forces at work)

Now lets add some more fun...

  • PREDICT: Ask your students "What will happen when I tilt this air stream over at a slight angle?"
  • OBSERVE: Rotate your wrist so the air stream is about 20 degrees from the vertical
  • EXPLAIN: What is happening (seniors might like to consider forces at work)

Finally, demonstrate that you can walk around like this, then far you can go from vertical before you lose control of the balloon. This is the basis for the game...figure out your own version as a class project!

Ask the experts for more information while visiting the New Plymouth observatory. The members of the Astronomical Society hold open nights every Tuesday night between

  • 8pm till 10pm in the Summer

  • 7:30pm till 9pm in the Winter


  1. The Sun Gun - shoot the closest star to Earth!
  2. Make a model planet that floats in the air! A fascinating Solar System to build
  3. Move the planets around on screen! organise the planets in the correct order in our Interactive page
  4. Discover the hidden information about the planets in our Interactive page
  5. Try to find out what stars are made of and how they are different from each other.
  6. How do telescopes work?
  7. What is the difference between stars, planets, meteors, asteroids and comets?
  8. What is a Black Hole?

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