April 3, 2015
— A fan's yearlong mission to gain support for his LEGO version of the International Space Station is now complete.
Christoph Ruge's model of the orbiting outpost recorded its 10,000th vote on Friday (April 3) after being posted to the Danish toy company's social website, LEGO Ideas, more than a year ago. Ruge's plastic brick replica of the space station racked up its final 2,035 supporters in a matter of just 10 hours after it made it onto the front page of another popular website.
"Please support the project so we can all have a little ISS in our homes and/or office cubicles," Monitor343, a Reddit member, wrote in his appeal to readers of the site's Space community.
The project's soaring support came within 26 days of its expiration. Interest in the space station model grew slowly until last month, when it finally reached the halfway mark of 5,000 votes. Along the way, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) — partners aboard the actual space station — gave Ruge's idea a boost by sharing it with their social media followers.
Christoph Ruge's LEGO International Space Station recreates the orbiting outpost out of the iconic plastic toy bricks. (LEGO Ideas)
"A space station design is up for LEGO community fans to vote on," NASA wrote on Twitter in November.
Ruge also had the chance to talk about and show off his model at ESA's European Astronaut Center, located near Cologne, Germany.
"Beginning the [March 21 SpaceUp] event with a talk by veteran astronaut Reinhold Ewald and a live tweet from space by ESA astronaut Samantha Christoforetti set the bar high," the space agency described on its website. "It continued to be raised even higher ... [by] both giant and miniature International Space Station models built out of custom LEGO bricks."
Ruge's large model, as posted on LEGO Ideas, recreates the International Space Station in its current configuration, including all of its U.S., Russian, Japanese and European modules. Built from slightly more than 1,000 LEGO bricks, it features rotating solar arrays, an articulated robotic arm and visiting vehicles that can dock to the outpost.
Ruge's model, if approved for production, will be LEGO's first replica of the complete International Space Station to be offered for sale. In 2003, the company, in partnership with the Discovery Channel, sold a 162 toy brick set of the orbital laboratory based on its then-still under construction configuration.
Christoph Ruge's partially-built LEGO International Space Station as displayed at the European Astronaut Center. (Christoph Ruge)
The real space station was declared complete eight years later in 2011. This November, it will mark the 15th year the complex has been continuously crewed.
Ruge's station is only the fourth model of a real spacecraft to qualify for review. Two earlier ideas, Japan's Hayabusa asteroid sample probe and NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover, entered production and were sold. The third, a fan-created version of the Hubble Space Telescope, was not approved by LEGO.
The International Space Station will be reviewed beginning in May. Other qualifying projects to be reviewed alongside it include a medieval marketplace, a Douglas DC-3 airliner, a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Elsa's Ice Palace from Disney's animated movie "Frozen."
According to its website, LEGO will announce the results of the review in September. If the space station is given a "go," then it will enter a several-month development phase during which LEGO's own designers will work to refine its construction and prepare it for release.