July 3, 2017
— Just a month after LEGO launched sales of its fan-created NASA Apollo Saturn V model, one of the designers has put forth what might be the toy set's ultimate accessory: the moon rocket's launch pad.
Valerie Roche, a Paris-based LEGO fan who teamed with Felix Stiessen of Austria to propose the Saturn V that flew off store shelves in June, has now partnered with Emmanuel Urquieta of Houston, Texas to propose a same-sized Launch Umbilical Tower on the LEGO Ideas website.
"Every spacecraft needs a launch tower built upon a rocket launch pad," Roche and Urquieta wrote about their project on the LEGO Ideas site. "[This is] the ideal stand at 1/110 scale to complete your set."
Like the Saturn V set before it, the Launch Umbilical Tower, or LUT, needs 10,000 votes of support from other LEGO and Apollo fans for the Danish toy company to consider it for production. Though LEGO has not released sale data for the Saturn V, thousands of the rocket sets are believed to have already been sold. LEGO's online shop currently lists the 1,969-piece, $120 NASA Apollo Saturn V model as being "temporarily out of stock."
NASA erected three LUTs between 1963 and 1965, which supported 17 launches, including two Saturn V test flights, 10 moon program missions, four Skylab orbital workshop flights and the joint U.S.-Russian Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Later, parts from the Apollo towers were used in the construction of the fixed service structures that supported the space shuttles and is still in use by SpaceX for its commercial Falcon rocket launches off Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The original upper levels and crane that topped the tower used in the launch of Apollo 11, the first moon landing mission, in July 1969, is today preserved and on display at Kennedy with one of the three remaining Saturn V rockets.
The real-life LUTs stood 398 feet tall (121 meters) from the base to the top of the crane. Roche and Urquieta's LEGO-brick Launch Umbilical Tower stands 3.75 feet tall (1.14 m) and is built up from 2,998 pieces (as shown on LEGO Ideas; the two have also created a deluxe version with more parts and additional details).
"The launch umbilical tower was used to fuel the massive Saturn V. In this model, you can see that all the pipes and fuel lines have been replicated as technically possible," the creators wrote.
More than just a static stand for the Saturn V, Roche's and Urquieta's LEGO-built LUT has several moving features. Color-coded controls enable users to rotate the crane and raise or lower its hook; to retract the tower's swing arms; and move the elevator from the base to the top level.
Further, users can manually extend or fold down the damper system that reduced the Saturn V rocket's wobble while being rolled out to the launch pad and release (or lock down) the tail service masts that held the Saturn V on the launch pad until liftoff.
Roche and Urquieta tease about one more detail: a hidden microfigure.
"Keep looking for Guenter Wendt, the most famous pad leader," the two note. "He is working somewhere inside the Launch Umbilical Tower. Maybe in the elevator? Maybe in the white room where the astronauts prepared to ingress the capsule? Or perhaps behind the blast shield at the ground level?"