May 30, 2019
— NASA's plans for sending humans to Mars may still be decades away from reaching the red planet, but the space agency's concepts have already taken shape in the toy brick world of LEGO.
The Denmark-based toy company on Thursday (May 30) officially unveiled seven new LEGO City sets inspired by NASA's recently refocused ambitions beyond low Earth orbit. The new Mars exploration-themed sets will launch globally for sale on Saturday (June 1) and in the United States beginning June 23.
"We have a deep understanding of the ways in which play can have lifelong impact, and we have been champions of the awe and wonder of space exploration through playful building for almost as long as the world's celebration of the first moon landing," said Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for LEGO Systems, in a statement.
"There are countless stories of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and roboticists who point to their experiences with LEGO building as the reason they are engaged in their current careers. We hope that our ongoing commitment to space-themed play materials will inspire future generations to help us continue exploring," stated McNally.
The new LEGO City Mars Exploration sets include:
Satellite Service Mission ($9.99) — a near-future space shuttle with a minifigure-scale cockpit and a satellite with opening solar panels
Mars Research Shuttle ($39.99) — collect Martian geodes, load them into a storage drone and send to the space shuttle's cargo bay
Lunar Space Station ($59.99) — inspired by NASA's designs for the Gateway lunar platform, part of the newly-named Artemis program, this set features three detachable, modular compartments that recreate life at an astronaut-tended space station with kitchen, living area and research lab
Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control ($99.99) — send astronauts via monorail to NASA's multi-stage Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and prepare for launch by adding a mobile device and companion LEGO City Explorers app to simulate an interactive control panel
Rocket Assembly & Transport ($149.99) — prepare a rocket for launch with this assembly frame building with crane, transport crawler, multi-stage rocket and rover lab
To make certain that the sets reflected many of the details of the real-life rockets, rovers and equipment that NASA may someday use to send humans to Mars, LEGO designers met with the agency as the toys were developed. During visits to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, LEGO's designers adjusted their product ideas to more closely mirror NASA's real-world counterparts.
"For example," wrote LEGO in a release, "learning about the importance of protecting against contamination to increase mission success prompted designers to add face masks for the engineer minifigures." The team also altered its rocket models from being primarily white in color to include a burnt orange, matching the insulating materials that NASA intends to use with its new SLS heavy-lift booster.
To promote the new sets, LEGO Stores around the world are planning activities to "engage families in creative play designed to inspire their awareness and interest in space exploration."
In the U.S. and across North America, the stores will host Build & Play spaceship games from June 3 to 30. From July 1 to 30, LEGO Stores in North America will also host weekly Build & Display prompts related to Mars exploration. In London, Berlin and Paris, larger scale events are planned July 23 to 26.
In addition to the new Mars exploration-themed sets, LEGO on Thursday (May 30) also revealed a new model in its Creator Expert line in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing mission. The 1,087-piece NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander, produced in cooperation with the space agency, recreates the "Eagle" lunar module that brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon's surface on July 20, 1969.
Seven new LEGO City Mars Exploration sets draw from NASA's ideas for how humans will one day travel to the red planet. The new sets incorporate concepts from the space agency's designs for rockets, rovers, lunar platforms and Mars-bound vehicles. (LEGO)