Lego first launched its line of space toys in 1978, that’s almost a decade after the Apollo 11 first landed on the moon. Since then, the company has been launching toys featuring spaceships, astronauts and lunar bases, including detailed sets that draw on the hardware from real space missions.
NASA engineers were recently paid a visit from Lego designer Simon Kent and his colleagues, as The Verge reports. They compared their toys against the real spaceships, rovers, and space stations currently in operation today.
“Across the company, space is such a big theme, that we can tap into it in many different ways, whether its a plaything like Lego City, or a display model that goes into the fine details of the spacecraft’s design,” the Lego designer stated.
“Space is a theme or subject that appeals to kids and adults alike,” Kent explained, “there’s always this sort of need for kids to have space toys to pique that interest.” For the last 40 years, Lego has widely explored the space theme, having launched fantastical sets about aliens, space police, or martian colonists but also more realistic sets that Kent and his team are responsible for.
Lego’s latest releases include a deep-space rocket and mission control, a modular space station, space shuttles, a rover, and more. These sets aren’t exactly like what is currently fielded by NASA and various private companies.
There’s “a sort of artistic twist that we tend to put on these themes, where we don’t want to focus necessarily on the pasts; we want to be relevant and future-looking. So we’re looking into what might be launched into space in the next few years” Kent noted. Lego wants to “support the stories that kids hear at school or in the media about space agencies like NASA, the European Space Agency or SpaceX.”
On their recent trip to NASA, Kent and his team gathered inspiration for their upcoming sets by looking on some of the projects that the engineers were working on. The designers got some cool insights that helped them make their sets more realistic, like the Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control set, in which they included a small vehicle with four independent wheels, inspired by an experimental rover.
Also, after learning that white paint adds a lot of weight to a rocket, opted to change the color to orange to show that it’s unpainted. Another instance was with the Lunar Space Station model: Kent says that they changed the color of the handrails to better reflect what’s used on the space station. They also incorporated a wide range of characters into the sets, showing off the huge number of people that it takes to support a space mission, from engineers to administrators, scientists, trainers, and more.
The little differences add a bit of realism to the sets and give an educational aspect providing kids to get interested in science and space. Hopefully, the latest space line of Lego toys will inspire the next generation of rocket scientists and astronauts.