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The Incredible Journey of Space Exploration and LEGO®

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Published: 21 July, 2023
Updated: July 21, 2023
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Space. It’s vast and enigmatic and has served as the backdrop for countless stories of adventure and exploration. It has sparked curiosity in scientists, writers, artists, and kids who gaze up at the twinkling night sky and wonder, “What’s out there?” As our understanding and technology have evolved, so has our ability to explore this final frontier, and LEGO® has been along for the ride, commemorating our stellar achievements in beautifully intricate plastic brick sets.

The Space Race: A Brief Timeline

The Space Race was a period of high-stakes competition between two world powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, marking a defining era in space exploration. Driven by geopolitical rivalry, scientific curiosity, and national pride, both nations strived to achieve significant milestones in spaceflight.

1955: The Starting Line

In 1955, the USA and USSR, then at the height of the Cold War, announced their intentions to launch artificial satellites. This marked the beginning of the space age. Although the purposes were ostensibly peaceful, underlying the announcements was the subtext of missile technology advancement, indicative of the arms race happening simultaneously.

1957: The USSR Takes the Lead

On October 4, 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite. The successful launch shook the world, especially the United States, indicating that the USSR had taken an early lead in space technology. Sputnik 1, though simple in design, was a massive leap in technological advancement and significantly intensified the Space Race.

1961: The First Man in Orbit

On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth in his Vostok 1 spacecraft. His single orbit lasted 108 minutes. This achievement was another significant victory for the Soviet Union and a sobering event for the United States, which was still struggling to launch astronauts into space reliably.

1969: The USA Claims Victory

In one of the most iconic moments in human history, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission successfully landed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon on July 20, 1969. As Armstrong took his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the USA claimed a significant victory in the Space Race. This achievement culminated a decade of intense scientific and technological effort under NASA’s Apollo program.

The Apollo 11 moon landing didn’t just signify the United States’ victory in the Space Race; it represented a victory for humanity, demonstrating what we could achieve through cooperation, ingenuity, and the indomitable spirit of exploration.

Post-Race Achievements

Following the climax of the Space Race, space exploration didn’t come to a halt. Instead, the focus shifted from competition to cooperation, leading to several international collaborations, such as establishing the International Space Station.

Scientific curiosity and advanced technology have led humanity to send rovers to Mars, probes to the outer planets, and even land a spacecraft on a comet. Each of these accomplishments has deepened our understanding of the cosmos and set the stage for future explorations.

In retrospect, the Space Race did more than just pit two nations against each other in a race for the stars. It brought space exploration to the forefront of public consciousness, led to significant advancements in science and technology, and inspired generations to look up and dream about the possibilities beyond our planet.

LEGO® and the Final Frontier

LEGO® has been there to commemorate many of these milestones in space exploration. Here are some standout sets that space and LEGO® enthusiasts should know about:

LEGO® City Space Port (60080)

Set Number: 60080
Theme: City Space
Year Released: 2015
No. Pieces: 586
RRP: £69.99 / $119.99 / 89.99€

This set captures the thrill of space travel from the comfort of Earth. It offers a detailed space shuttle, complete with an opening payload bay, a mobile launch pad, a satellite, a countdown display, and a crew of five minifigures. It allows you to simulate the complete process of a space mission, from preparation to launch and satellite deployment.

LEGO® NASA Apollo Saturn V (92176)

Set Number: 92176
Theme: LEGO® Ideas
Year Released: 2020
No. Pieces: 1969 (to commemorate the year of the Moon landing)
RRP: £104.99 / $119.99 / 119.99€

This towering 1-meter-tall model pays homage to NASA’s Apollo Saturn V, the rocket that sent humans to the moon. It breaks down into stages just like the real thing, includes a lunar lander and lunar orbiter, and comes with three astronaut minifigures.

LEGO® NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover (21104)

Set Number: 21104
Theme: LEGO® Ideas
Year Released: 2014
No. Pieces: 295
RRP: £24.99 / $29.99

This set accurately recreates the Mars Curiosity Rover, one of our most important tools in the exploration of Mars. It was designed by a real NASA engineer, featuring many of the real rover’s tools and instruments, an articulated arm, and a display plate with LEGO® brick Martian rocks for testing.

LEGO® International Space Station (21321)

Set Number: 21321
Theme: LEGO® Ideas
Year Released: 2020
No. Pieces: 864
RRP: £59.99 / $69.99 / 69.99€

This detailed model of the ISS lets you build and display your very own orbiting laboratory. It includes a space shuttle, three mini cargo spacecraft, two astronaut minifigures, and a display stand. The set also boasts authentic features like posable solar panels and a posable Canadarm2.

LEGO® Lunar Space Station (60349)

Set Number: 60349
Theme: City Space
Year Released: 2020
No. Pieces: 500
RRP: £54.99 / $79.99 / 59.99€

The Lunar Space Station set lets young space enthusiasts experience the thrill of moon exploration. It features three separate modules for living and working, a detachable shuttle, two astronauts, and a host of accessories to spark imaginative play.

LEGO® Lunar Research Base (60350)

Set Number: 60350
Theme: City Space
Year Released: 2022
No. Pieces: 786
RRP: £89.99 / $129.99 / 99.99€

This set transports kids to a lunar base for exciting space missions. It includes a variety of laboratories, a rover, a rocket, six minifigures, and many additional accessories, offering endless opportunities for creative play and exploration.

LEGO® Rocket Launch Center (60351)

Set Number: 60351
Theme: City Space
Year Released: 2022
No. Pieces: 1010
RRP: £129.99 / $159.99 / 149.99€

This Rocket Launch Center set is perfect for kids who dream of blasting off into space. It comes complete with a multi-stage rocket, a rover with an articulated grappling arm, a launch control center, and a monorail system. It also features six minifigures, providing a complete scenario for imaginative play.

LEGO® Space Stars 1,000-Piece Puzzle (5007066)

Product Type: Puzzle
Year Released: 2021
No. Pieces: 1,000
RRP: $17.99

The LEGO® Space Stars puzzle is a captivating item for all space enthusiasts. It consists of 1,000 pieces and features a vibrant, cosmic design. When completed, the puzzle reveals a beautiful scene of space exploration, adorned with iconic space elements from various LEGO® sets.

Fascinating Facts about Space Travel

While building these LEGO® sets, it’s fascinating to contemplate the real-life feats they represent. Here are a few interesting space travel tidbits:

  1. Space is completely silent – there’s no medium for sound to travel through.
  2. The footprints left by astronauts on the moon could stay there for millions of years, as there’s no wind to blow them away.
  3. The golden record aboard Voyager 1 and 2 contains images, music, and greetings in 55 languages in case the probes encounter intelligent extraterrestrial life.
  4. A day on Venus lasts longer than a year on Venus – it takes longer for Venus to rotate on its axis than to orbit the sun!

More Info

How did the Space Race influence the popularity of space exploration?

The Space Race was a global spectacle that captured the world’s attention. It made space exploration a common topic of interest and encouraged investment in scientific and technological research.

Why is space exploration important?

Space exploration helps us understand our place in the universe, predicts future astronomical threats, and drives technological advancements that often have applications on Earth.

What was the first LEGO® space set?

The first LEGO® space set was the “Moon Landing” set, released in 1975.

How accurate are LEGO® space sets?

LEGO® collaborates with organizations like NASA to ensure their sets are as accurate and educational as possible, often down to the smallest detail.

How does building LEGO® space sets benefit children?

Besides developing fine motor skills, these sets can spark a child’s interest in space and science, fostering critical thinking and creativity.

How can I get involved in space exploration?

There are many ways to get involved, from studying related fields to participating in citizen science projects, to advocating for space research and education.

What’s the future of space exploration?

The future of space exploration looks promising, with plans for manned missions to Mars, the search for extraterrestrial life, and further study of distant celestial bodies.

To Infinity and Beyond

We have a wide range of LEGO® space exploration and MOC sets that will let you relive some of the most historic moments in space exploration history. Whether you’re a budding astronaut, a seasoned space lover, or simply fascinated by the unknown, there’s a set for you. Start your collection today and journey through the cosmos, one LEGO® brick at a time.

From the Space Race to the International Space Station, space exploration has been a captivating journey that continues to inspire and ignite our curiosity. LEGO® has masterfully encapsulated this journey in their sets, allowing us to bring a piece of the cosmos into our homes.

And who knows? That LEGO® Mars Rover might inspire the future astronaut to take the first step on the Red Planet. So, embrace the adventure, build your universe, and keep reaching for the stars!

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Written by Matthew Mitchell
Hey, I am Matthew Mitchell and I am an AFOL from the UK. I have been fascinated by LEGO® since I was a child. My two children are in love with LEGO® and it's because of them that my interest continued to grow, this is how I fell in to the rabbit hole of MOCs (my own creation). 

With every new MOC I saw I became just a bit more addicted to the endless possibilities that LEGO® offers. This led me to creating Belle-Ve Bricks, a platform where talented designers can share their work with the world.

And where we can create together with you, custom models.
About Matthew Mitchell
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