Space is no longer the final frontier... if you're a Lego fan, that is.
The toy company has just launched an out-of-this-world Lego set based on the Nasa Space Shuttle Discovery. The set, which is made up of 2,354 pieces, is a detailed recreation of the STS-31 mission launched in April 1990, which saw Discovery and its five crew members deploy the Hubble Space Telescope into the cosmos.
Besides paying homage to that momentous moment in space exploration history, it also commemorates the 40th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle flight on April 12,1981.
The set was recently revealed by former Nasa Astronaut Dr Kathy Sullivan (who was part of the original Nasa STS-31 mission over 30 years ago).
This is not the first time Lego has released a set based on real life space craft and events. in 2017, it released a replica of the iconic Saturn V rocket, which was used for the Apollo moon missions in the 1960s, as well as Women Of Nasa set that paid tribute to four groundbreaking women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) — astronomer and educator Nancy Grace Roman, computer scientist and entrepreneur Margaret Hamilton, astronaut, physicist and entrepreneur Sally Ride and astronaut, physician and engineer Mae Jemison.
In 2019, Lego commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with the Apollo Lunar Lander set, and last year, the company released a replica of the International Space Station (ISS).
However, the Discovery set is arguably the most ambitious and impressive of these Nasa-related sets so far.
Measuring 21.78cm in height, 34.60cm wide and 55.46cm in length, the 2,354-piece Lego Nasa Space Shuttle Discovery is an amazingly detailed replica of its full-size counterpart, complete with functional landing gear, and payload bay doors that open one after the other. The doors also feature reflective stickers to mimic the cooling radiators found on the real shuttle orbiter.
The rear of Discovery houses the three main engines used for launch into orbit. These are flanked on either side of the tail by smaller engines designed for in-orbit manoeuvres and for deorbit and re-entry into the atmosphere at the end of the mission.
The flight control surfaces on the back edge of the wings and tail are then used to control roll, pitch and yaw as an airplane does. The tail's rudder serves as a speed brake to assist in landing control and rollout on the runway after touchdown.
The interior of the shuttle, from the upper flight deck down and through the mid-deck and out to the payload bay, is equally impressive. The crew cabin features the five seats in their correct placement for the astronauts on the STS-31 mission, complete with flight and robotic arm (Remote Manipulator System, or RMS), control panels. Meanwhile the mid-deck contains the space shuttle’s storage lockers for necessities and mission equipment, space for the fifth crew member and the airlock to the payload bay.
The payload bay itself contains the Ku-band antenna for communications, cameras for the crew to monitor operations within the bay, and the RMS arm ready to grapple and release Hubble to carry out its mission.
Accompanying the shuttle itself is of course, a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope, with its iconic hinged mirror housing, new gold foil solar arrays, as well as a realistic, reflective, metallic silver design. The telescope can be stowed in the payload bay ready to be connected to the RMS arm for deployment just as it was on mission STS-31. Alternatively, it can be displayed separately from Discovery, as if orbiting in space on its all-important mission, documenting the stars and our universe.
The set kicks off Lego's Go Beyond range of space-related sets. Space and Lego fans alike can head to lego.com/gobeyond to watch an interview with Dr Kathy Sullivan and find out more about the original STS-31 mission. The Lego Nasa Space Shuttle Discovery set is now available in all Lego Certified Stores nationwide, and in Legoland from April 1 onwards.