Living Room Space Traveler

How to make a cardboard-box rocket ship.

When I was in elementary school, I loved space—specifically Pluto. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation every weeknight. My idol was Sally Ride—the first American woman in space. I ate freeze-dried space ice cream and I went to the planetarium at least once a month. At nine years old, I’d made up my mind: I was going to be an astronaut. But then someone told me that you had to be good at math to work for NASA. Since I can barely add two-digit numbers together, I abandoned any dreams I had of one day orbiting the Earth. I don’t regret this decision, though, because (a) I eventually went on an extraordinarily terrifying motion-simulator ride at Epcot in Florida called Mission: SPACE and had an unsimulated panic attack that showed me that even if I’d excelled at math, I wouldn’t have enjoyed actual space travel very much; and (b) cardboard-box spaceships exist.

What is a cardboard box spaceship, you ask? A cardboard-box spaceship is a spaceship made out of a cardboard box. It is powered by imagination, and you don’t have to know math to operate one—in fact, they work better when you force yourself to forget absolutely everything you know about integers, decimal points, and the like. While it would cost the government millions of dollars to launch a real shuttle into space, it doesn’t cost anything to fly to the moon and back in a cardboard-box spaceship. Plus, they’re eco-friendly—real shuttles leave behind all kinds of debris. If you’re a Community fan, you may have seen the exemplary ships crafted by Troy and Abed—TV’s most whimsical twosome.

Now is your chance to get in on a little bit of that whimsy.

Really, all you need is a you-sized box. Just hop inside of that thing and allow your mind to boldly take you where no cardboard box has gone before. If you have the time, though, and don’t need to be out in space immediately, you might want to spruce up your ship a bit.

Everything you need to make your interplanetary vessel the envy of the neighborhood can be found around your home—this is one of the major reasons why these things are so great. I added two photon torpedo launchers to the front of my ship—you can never be too careful—which are actually toilet paper rolls wrapped in aluminum foil. The control column is two paper-towel rolls cut up, reassembled, and covered with duct tape.

For windows, I cut out rectangles on the sides of the box and then put two pieces of plastic that I found in the recycling bin over the holes. The aluminum foil on the wings makes the craft more aerodynamic and, of course, provides some protection against enemy photon blasts.

Because I am a proponent of interstellar time travel, the back of my ship is the TARDIS. For those who don’t watch Doctor Who, TARDIS stands for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” and it allows you to travel through time and space. So yeah, these days I’m traveling through time and space.

When you’ve completed your design, take the ship for a test ride. Say things like, “Engage,” “Raise shields,” “It’s a trap,” “Houston, we have a problem,” and “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal.” Rock back and forth to simulate navigating through an asteroid field. Make a swooshing “I’m flying at warp speed” sound.

Captain Picardboard Box

With a cardboard-box spaceship, you can go on an adventure without leaving your living room, so they’re perfect for rainy days. And when you get tired of making pew-pew noises and fighting alien hordes, you can just sit in that box, chill for a bit, and watch some TV. If someone walks in on you while you’re sitting in that box, they will think that you are the coolest person in the history of life. At least, that’s what I would think if I saw you.

I found the box that would eventually become my spaceship while walking around town. Someone had left it out on the curb in front of their house with the recycling. My boyfriend said that I was weird for taking the box and then carrying it all the way home (that’s a mile walk). But I have a spaceship and he doesn’t, so who’s weird now? ♦


  • KinuKinu March 22nd, 2012 7:13 PM


  • youngfridays March 22nd, 2012 7:13 PM

    The TARDIS design = perfect ;)

  • Kathryn March 22nd, 2012 7:39 PM

    I’ve been on Mission: Space and it was terrible!!

  • Marguerite March 22nd, 2012 7:44 PM

    hey i dont know if its just me but when i type in rookie, and the webiste comes up its february and the title is obsession but todays 4:00 article is there….

    • Anaheed March 22nd, 2012 7:59 PM

      Can you try doing a hard refresh and let me know if it’s still happening? I checked an incorrect box earlier today and effed everything up!

  • LittleMissE March 22nd, 2012 7:48 PM

    This is brilliant. Cardboard boxes are THE BEST. And you made it DOUBLE BEST because now it’s also a TARDIS. So. Props to you.

  • Madness March 22nd, 2012 7:51 PM

    Rebel alliance unite!

  • missblack March 22nd, 2012 8:17 PM

    I TOTALLY did this when I was six. And seven. And eight. And probably nine.
    One space shuttle even featured my little sister as astronaut with a colander on her head for a helmet.

    gooood times.


  • Anna March 22nd, 2012 8:19 PM

    Did this at camp with my besties. Blasting around in space ships painted with nerd references and NATURE and FRIENDSHIP. Nothing better, there is.

  • Toria Crux March 22nd, 2012 8:26 PM

    Is it just me, or does it seem as if Rookie is run by extremely creative 2 year olds? (Just so you know, that was meant as a compliment) Keep up the weirdness!! The world needs more weirdos!!!!!

  • Ruby B. March 22nd, 2012 10:36 PM

    Once I made a robot costume out of a box and wore it for 2 months straight. This brings back those fond memories.

  • Adrienne March 23rd, 2012 12:29 AM

    YES! Looks so fun. But I bet my dog will get to my rocketship… she has a serious love for anything cardboard!

  • sedgwick March 23rd, 2012 2:29 AM

    glad that the humble cardboard box is receiving some appreciation. everyone likes blanket forts, but i think cardboard boxes are even cooler! fortunately troy and abed appreciate both.

  • jess March 23rd, 2012 8:38 AM

    Reminds me of the Spongebob episode.. ‘IMAGINATION’, great!

    • Toria Crux March 25th, 2012 7:25 PM

      “Imaaaaaaaagination” *rainbow magically appears*

  • canklesandclothes March 24th, 2012 6:11 AM

    I used to love cardboard box spaceships so much! Me and my sister used to perch it on the top of our outdoor playset (which was like the tallest thing ever back in those days) so it would feel like we were really in space. . . Oh the memories. :)

  • mayaautumn March 25th, 2012 6:02 AM

    i wanna do this! I used to make this sort of thing when i was little and (because i was an only child back then) made little outer space tea parties with my teddies! memories…………x

  • Stephanie March 25th, 2012 1:11 PM

    This. Is. The. Best. Thing. EVER!

  • VanyaTheDinosaur April 24th, 2012 8:42 PM




    Sorry about that.