Sept. 8, 2017
— Fan-designed LEGO models of NASA's Saturn V launch tower and a space shuttle scaled to match the towering moon rocket are now under review to possibly become official LEGO toy sets.
The "NASA Saturn-V Launch Umbilical Tower," created by Valerie Roche and Emmanuel Urquieta, from Paris, France and Houston, Texas, and "NASA Space Shuttle (Saturn V Scale)" by Andrew Harkins from Burbank, California, each gathered 10,000 supporters on the LEGO Ideas website, qualifying the projects for the toy company's review.
"Up, up and away! Congrats on hitting the 10K milestone," posted Hasan Jensen, a community specialist at LEGO's headquarters in Billund, Denmark, on the page for Harkins' space shuttle. Jensen commended Roche and Urquieta on the page for the launch tower with a similar note.
Harkins' space shuttle, which faithfully recreates the NASA winged spacecraft last launched in 2011, is sized to match LEGO's NASA Apollo Saturn V set, which was co-created by Roche. The 3.28-foot-tall (1-meter), 1,969 piece Saturn V rocket is about 1:111 the scale of the actual booster that flew astronauts to the moon almost 50 years ago.
Valerie Roche and Emmanuel Urquieta's Saturn V launch umbilical tower would serve as a stand for the LEGO NASA Apollo Saturn V that was co-created by Roche and released in June. (LEGO Ideas)
Roche and Urquieta's tower is modeled after the 398-foot-tall (121-meter) metal gantry that supported the Saturn V on the launch pad. Their proposed set includes the mobile launcher platform on which the rocket stood, and features movable umbilical swing arms, elevator and crane. (NASA later used parts from the Apollo launch tower to create the fixed service structure that supported the space shuttle.)
Harkins' shuttle was the first to recruit the requisite 10,000 votes, despite it being added to the LEGO Ideas site after the Saturn V tower. The shuttle qualified on Aug. 28; the tower followed on Sept. 3, just one day before the deadline for projects to qualify for the current review.
"I never dreamed this would reach 10,000," said Harkins in a note posted for his supporters. "Even if this does not get approved, getting to 10,000 supporters means so much."
"You and we now have to wait about four months to know the future of this design," Roche and Urquieta wrote in a post to their supporters. "Let's cross the fingers so that the LEGO Group also chooses this design."
Andrew Harkins' NASA Space Shuttle recreates the iconic winged vehicle in the same scale as the LEGO Saturn V. (LEGO Ideas)
The two sets are not necessarily in direct competition with each other. LEGO's board of set designers and marketing representatives evaluates each project separately, looking at factors that include playability, safety and the proposed set's fit with the LEGO brand. Past reviews have resulted in the selection of one or two — or on occasion, none — of the projects to be offered for sale.
In addition to the tower and shuttle, four other fan-created sets qualified for the current review, including a model of an NF-15B research aircraft and dioramas themed to "Star Wars," "Gilmore Girls" and the country of Peru.
The LEGO Ideas review has previously chosen five other sets based on space exploration history. In addition to the Saturn V, earlier models have included Japan's Hayabusa asteroid sample return spacecraft, NASA's Mars Curiosity rover and the "Women of NASA," the latter to be released by the end of the year or early in 2018.
Fan-designed models of the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station reached 10,000 supporters but were passed over by LEGO for production.