Aug. 31, 2014
— A fan's idea for a LEGO toy to celebrate the Hubble Space Telescope's 25th anniversary just came into greater focus.
On Sunday (Aug. 31), Gabriel Russo's design for a model of the famous orbiting observatory topped 10,000 votes on LEGO Ideas, a website where fans can share and vote for new LEGO kits. Projects that get 10,000 votes of support are considered by LEGO for production and sale.
The 10,000th vote for Russo's Hubble model came in just before the cutoff for LEGO's fall review period, giving the Danish toy company perhaps enough time for a set to be ready for the satellite's anniversary next year.
"A LEGO model of [the Hubble] would come as a perfect homage to its 25th anniversary in 2015," Russo wrote as a part of his model's description on the Ideas website.
The school bus-size telescope was deployed by the space shuttle Discovery's STS-31 crew on April 25, 1990.
The Hubble Space Telescope is seen in orbit above the Earth as photographed from the space shuttle in May 2009. (NASA)
In the almost two-and-a-half decades since its launch, the observatory has captured the world's attention through the astronaut missions that repaired and upgraded it, and the stunning imagery and discoveries about the cosmos that it has returned.
"Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon," explained Russo, justifying why he thought the space telescope was worthy of the LEGO treatment.
Russo's replica captures many of the features of the real Hubble Space Telescope, including its solar panel wings, antenna booms, astronaut handrails and instrument bays. In response to fans' feedback, Russo reduced the size of his original model by 35 to 40 percent so that it would be to scale with LEGO's minifigures and he has included two spacewalking astronauts as part of his idea for the set.
"You have created a beautiful model, sure to inspire the young and old and have us all looking to the stars!" LEGO officials wrote when Russo's model passed 5,000 votes in July.
Having qualified for the review, Russo's Hubble will now be considered alongside other fan-created LEGO models that also received the requisite 10,000 votes over the past four months. These sets include a model of the Disney-Pixar robot WALL-E and LEGO replicas Darth Vader's and Luke Skywalker's lightsabers from "Star Wars."
"If you are wondering how I made it round," Russo writes, "well... let's say it took a lot of 'technic' parts and a lot of creativity. Can't really say more than that." (GRusso/LEGO Ideas)
The review board includes LEGO's professional designers and product managers.
"It is our job to determine whether your project meets our high standards for what it takes to be a LEGO product," LEGO officials wrote, describing the review process. "Our evaluation looks at factors including playability, safety and fit with the LEGO brand."
To date, LEGO Ideas (formerly CUUSOO) has resulted in eight LEGO kits being offered, including models based on the Hayabusa asteroid probe and NASA's Curiosity Mars rover.
If Russo's model is selected for production, it will be the first detailed model of the Hubble Space Telescope to be offered by LEGO. The company earlier included a smaller, more basic version of the telescope with a space shuttle Discovery model that was released in 2003.
LEGO also launched a custom-built model of the Hubble Space Telescope aboard the real space shuttle Endeavour in 2011 as part of an educational partnership with NASA.