LEGO Space Trivia and History: Take a look back at one of the most stellar LEGO themes [Feature]

With the release of the new Creator Expert 10266 NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander set, LEGO is once again delving into the world of space exploration. Some of the oldest, most notable, and most nostalgic LEGO sets and themes are based on space exploration, so it’s no surprise many of these sets are favorites of LEGO fans young and old. To commemorate the occasion, LEGO has compiled a list of interesting facts on LEGO Space sets, from the very first rocket ship in 1964, to the more recent behemoths of the past few years.

Want to learn some of the history behind the earliest  LEGO Space sets? Or perhaps test your knowledge? Then read on to find out!

We’ve annotated LEGO’s facts with a few of our own, just to get you all caught up on your LEGO space history.

  • 801 Space Rocket was the first LEGO set containing a spacecraft, launched in 1964.

As you can see, the set was quite simple compared to what we have today, consisting of a few basic bricks, but it has that classic charm. Plus, just look at that price per piece ratio!

  • Red and white astronauts were among the first LEGO minifigures produced in 1978

Red and white were the first colors for space minifigures produced in 1978 shortly after the minifigure was first introduced. They were followed by blue and black astronauts in later sets. Due to how difficult and expensive it was to make new elements at the time, the helmet had to not only work in space minifgures, but town and castle ones as well.

  • Nineteen different subthemes have appeared in the LEGO Space range, including Classic, M-Tron and Ice Planet 2002.

We’ve compiled a photo of a few of the most prominent logos from the various themes. LEGO really has put a lot of effort into their logo design over the years, as most of them are instantly recognizable to fans. They’re also quite beautiful. I think I want a baseball cap with these on it, or maybe a bumper sticker…

  • Alien Conquest is the only LEGO Space theme which focuses upon aliens invading Earth.

  • The LEGO Group has produced more than twenty Space Shuttles, the smallest of which appears in 4124 Advent Calendar from 2001 and contains just 10 pieces.

It’s featured in the top row, third from the left. Overall, this creator advent calendar had some pretty good looking models made with almost purely basic bricks, very different than the ones we get today.

  • Three aluminum minifigures depicting Jupiter, Juno and Galileo were launched on board the NASA Juno spacecraft in 2011, traveling to Jupiter.

Well… I think they’d be more accurately classified as minifigure statues, made from aluminum since ABS plastic wouldn’t be able to withstand space flight. They are currently orbiting Jupiter but the probe along with these figures should crash into the planet by 2021, never to return to earth. But then again, who knows? Perhaps a century from now once we develop the technology necessary to travel the solar system they will be recovered by an avid collector…

  • The first LEGO Lunar Module was released in 1975 and included three brick-built astronauts.

This set was part of a series under the Discovery Kids branding in 2003. It is a lesser known line of sets that included a Mars rover, the lunar lander, and three other microscale sets.

  • Space Police II introduced the first LEGO Space minifigures with heads other than the classic smiling design in 1992.

  • Desert planets appear on the packaging for each LEGO Space set released from 1978, when the theme began, until 1989.

Initially, this one was a bit confusing, but after taking a look at all of the box art for the early classic themes, they do indeed all take place on a desert planet. I’m curious as to why this is–perhaps tan provided the best contrast between the model and the ground?

The real missions to land on the moon were Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17. Although there are really only five distinct models, the first set “Moon Landing” had two different versions with different set numbers, 367 and 565, as one was released in the Europe/UK/Australia/Canada and the other in the United States.

  •  Classic Space branding has appeared in nine different themes, including Friends, Collectible Minifigures and NEXO Knights.

  • Blacktron has opposed every incarnation of the Space Police, albeit exclusively in 5981 Raid VPR during Space Police III.

Upon close examination of the villain of the set, an alien named Rench, we can see that his suit does indeed bear the Blacktron Logo. Bonus trivia: a Blacktron character also appeared in Series 3 of the Collectible Minifigures line.

  • 497 Galaxy Explorer is among the most popular LEGO Space sets and was produced in 1979, ten years after the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. Multiplying the four digits of 1969 gives a result of 486 and adding 11, representing Apollo 11, totals 497 which is the set number for Galaxy Explorer

So, 1 x 9 x 6 x 9= 486 and then adding 11 gives 497, the set number of the Galaxy Explorer. Compared to the Easter egg hidden in the Saturn V set number, this one seems like a stretch, but it does check out. I wonder if it was truly planned or more of a coincidence after the fact.

Have any more awesome LEGO Space trivia? Let us know in the comments!

14 comments on “LEGO Space Trivia and History: Take a look back at one of the most stellar LEGO themes [Feature]

  1. David Friedman

    You forgot the yellow astronaut figures that came out between the original launch of white and red and when the blue and black ones came a bit later.

  2. matthew lawrence

    497 brings back so many lego memories. hard to believe that was one of my first sets as a kid.

  3. Håkan

    The original Blacktron Logo was also referenced in the CMF series, in Series 11 Evil Mech.

  4. Alexander

    Wow! What an awesome article. Great read! Since you asked about more facts, I believe Life on Mars theme from 2001 was the only LEGO Space sub-theme that implied absolutely no conflict between any parties.

  5. Håkan

    @Alexander
    Interesting point, although perhaps a bit hard to measure.

    The 96 UK catalog features both the Exploriens and the Spyrius subthemes, although keeping them separate with no interaction.
    The 97 UK catalog features U.F.O. only, although implications that they would be very dangerous to “human life as we know it”.
    The 98 catalog features both U.F.O. and Insectoids, with U.F.O. still being bad guys, but Insectoids appearing pretty neutral, “defending the Insectoid nation” and “foraging the planet Armeron for the Voltstone rock”.
    The 99 UK catalog features Insectoids only (apart from Star Wars), but statements that they would “infiltrate” and “conquer” Earth, given the chance, when their supply of Voltstone unfortunately had diminished.

    (Catalogs cited could be found by clicking on “Large UK” catalogs on Brickset. https://brickset.com/library/catalogues )

  6. Håkan

    Ah, checking out the 97 Medium US catalog, there’s an implied conflict between RoboForce and U.F.O. though . The RoboForce sets never appeared in Europe, and they’re also quite weird overall with theit mecha-rider design, so I tend to skip them in my mind, easily…

  7. Purple Dave

    Re: 801, and 15 years later the price/piece ratio settled in to the $0.10/pc that has stayed relatively constant ever since, while the complaints about LEGO getting more expensive have gone up exponentially every year.

    Re: 4124 Advent Calendar, I think you’re being _EXTREMELY_ generous to call that winged coffin a Space Shuttle. *shudder*

    Tan as a background actually makes a lot of sense when you consider how long it would be before they started making tan LEGO parts. Bricklink isn’t super helpful in that regard (the “year summary” for a color is sorted by when each shape first appeared, not when each shape first appeared in _that_color_), but I believe it may have been tied to the SW license.

    @David Friedman:
    One interesting thing about the timing of that is that red and white (colors that were originally chosen to represent Russian Cosmonauts and American Astronauts, respectively) spacemen were both released before they started printing minifig torsos, so 926-1 Command Center had plain-torso spacemen and two sticker sheets with white or red torso stickers. Yellow followed right on their heels, but the stickered torsos were replaced with print so fast that a plain yellow torso wouldn’t end up being officially released until 1989’s Black Seas Barracuda. Black would first appear with Ogel in 2001. There apparently has not been any monochrome blue torso assembly released to date.

  8. Peter Post author

    @Seth Schmidt
    I did too when I was younger. Space police III is probably the earliest out of all of these I remember seeing on store shelves, the rest were before my time unfortunately.

    @David Friedman
    Ah! Yes! I knew I was forgetting a color. Strangely enough I didn’t even realize it after looking at tons of pictures of classic space sets while writing this.

    @Håkan
    That’s a good one! I found there was actually a lot more references to classic themes in more recent sets than I thought there was.

    @Alexander
    Thanks! Very interesting, I would have thought there would have been more peaceful themes. I always thought original classic space was pretty much completely peaceful, apart from the missiles and laser guns they had.

  9. Peter Post author

    @Purple Dave
    Interesting stuff, and now that you mention it, that space shuttle does look a bit like a sarcophagus with wings. XD

  10. Håkan

    @Purple Dave

    Depending on definition, the first plain yellow torso was actually made for the blacksmith, released in 6040 Blacksmith Shop, in 1984. It had black hands, though, so might not strictly count as monochrome.

    (Similar situations for black and blue torsos, I believe. Fairly common if you don’t mind the yellow hands.)

  11. Purple Dave

    @Håkan:
    Well, yeah, that’s what I meant, though I guess I didn’t specify it until I got to blue. Monochrome torso assemblies. Of course, if they released it with print, that normally means they’d have to make it unprinted first. However, except in cases where they’re chromed, torso assemblies are printed before being assembled from what I understand (the patch on the neck post is supposed to make it so the machines can identify the front from the back before attaching the arms). CMFs either benefited from more modern computers, or they had the arms attached before being printed, as they don’t have contrasting patches on the neck post. Or at least they didn’t. I just checked and Anna, Elsa, Frozone, and Jack have no patches, but CMF Edna Mode does. The Giraffe, both versions of Wyldstyle, and the three guys from Wizard of Oz also have patches, but Dorothy, the Crayon, and the Watermelon don’t.

    Official monochrome minifigs are even rarer. That I know of, there are only three. Way back in the early days of the real minifig, there was a town square of some sort that had a statue. The statue was a solid back plank-style minifig (the non-articulated pre-cursers to what they’ve been making for ~40 years). The Iconic VIP polybag set has a solid red minifig to match the design of the VIP card logo. And the TLBM Arkham Asylum set has a solid light-bley statue that’s holding a snake. All three of these are distinct in that, when assembled exactly as shown in the instructions, they are all true monochromes. They have no print, and they are entirely produced in a single color of plastic. There are a ton that miss the mark due to being printed in some capacity (the yellow Classic Spaceman might be the earliest of these), and there are several that miss because of hands or an item of clothing in a different color. There are probably quite a few that would work if you left off anything that wasn’t head/torso/legs, like the Shredder training dummy from the cartoon version of the TMNT sewer lair that’s all reddish-brown except the dark-brown Shredder helmet

  12. Ben

    I always thought the implication for the early sets (1978-1981) was that they were on the moon, and that they used tan on the box covers because they were more concerned about how they would look (if you replace the tan with light gray, it becomes much drearier) than they were about scientific accuracy. You wouldn’t include gray baseplates with craters in the sets if you’re trying to imply a sandy desert planet.

    As the themes expanded in scope, the only explanation I have for why they continued to use the tan backgrounds is that it was easier (by which I mean cheaper) to do so than to make new ones, plus it was familiar to people already buying space sets.

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