LEGO City Space 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle & 60350 Lunar Research Base [Review]

When I was a kid, the LEGO City line was one of my favorites (though it was called Town back then). But these days, between Star Wars and Ideas and massive Creator Expert sets and all the other cool themes I enjoy, I don’t often get the opportunity to build City sets. So I was excited when LEGO reached out to us about reviewing the latest wave of LEGO City sets, which focus on space exploration. Real-world space has long been one of the recurring City themes, along with firefighters and police and construction, with the first space shuttle set launching in 1990. This latest wave is inspired by NASA’s Artemis project, the planned mission to return to the moon by 2025 (the first Artemis I unmanned mission is planned for this spring). Today we’re looking at two sets in the middle of the range, 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle with 275 pieces (US $39.99 | CAN $49.99 | UK £24.99), and 60350 Lunar Research Base with 786 pieces (US $119.99 | CAN $149.99 | UK £89.99). Both sets will be available March 1.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with early copies of these sets for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Unboxing the set and contents: 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle

Like other recent City sets, the boxes feature the blue brick wall in the upper left. But they also have an interesting inset panel on the lower corner that shows a bit of NASA renderings of the real Artemis project. Around back are the typical play features exposition, along with more Artemis renderings and a blurb showing how these two sets are meant to connect with each other via a docking port.

60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle contains just three numbered bags, along with a loose sticker sheet and the instruction manual.

The sticker sheet is reflective with shiny gold for a few solar panels and mirrored silver for the flag, which bears the new City space line’s emblem, an updated version of the Classic Space logo that originated in the 1970s and has been a fan favorite ever since. LEGO has employed variations on this logo for most of the Town/City space themes, but this latest one hearkens a little closer to the original than some previous versions, swapping out the gold planet for a two-tone blue orb.

You’ll also get the updated logo on a trio of 2x2x2/3 slopes, which are the set’s only new printed elements apart from the minifigures.

There’s not a lot in the way of new or recolored parts, but the one does stand out: a new design for the 4×4 split rock element. The original asteroid rock was introduced with the Town Space Port line in 1999, but this new one is instead a geode, dual molded in dark grey and trans light blue. It’s a really lovely design. Given that one of the purposes of the Artemis mission is to find usable water on the moon, the blue represents ice rather than minerals. I do wish the set included some mechanism to get the rock to light up from inside though, because the transparent portions are really cool when light shines through. It would be quite possible to rig this up on your own, however, since a 2×2 section of the bottom is transparent.

The instruction manual has a few pages at the end showing the real vehicle alongside the LEGO model inspired by it, known as the Habitable Mobility Platform, which NASA refers to as a mobile home allowing for longer excursions away from the base camp. The word “inspired” is key here, because this is absolutely not a direct translation of the HMP into LEGO form. It’s easy to see how LEGO started with the Artemis design and ended up with this set, but play features and construction simplicity were clearly the priorities, with only a vague head nod in the direction of accuracy.

The build: 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle

The rover kicks off with a stacked-plate chassis, using three of the 2×6 Technic bricks from the Speed Champions line for the axle connection points. The HMP crew compartment is pressurized, so the bulkhead between the cargo compartment on the left and driving compartment on the right is already obvious, with a window between the two.

The airlocks and solar panels are added next, along with a great design for the windscreen, which has the bottom panel inverted. To my sci-fi hungry eyes, it’s not nearly as cool as the multi-paneled design on the real HMP, but it is a clever bit of LEGO engineering.

With the canopy in place, all that’s left is the roof, which contains the airlock doors, and the wheels and front robotic arms. The roof is attached with only a few studs so it’s easily removable to access the interior.

The completed model: 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle

A tiny bit of moon terrain for the ice geode rounds out the build, along with three minifigures. The rover’s unusual 12-wheeled chassis gives it a passing resemblance to the real HMP, but it’s definitely not an accurate model. The real HMP, for instance, only has a docking hatch on the port (left) side, while the LEGO model is symmetric with hatches on both side.

What is, however, is great fun. The omnidirectional wheels allow the rover to be pushed in any direction and make zero-radius turns. This is one of the most fun wheeled vehicles I’ve built in a long time.

The hatch on the side can be opened for astronaut access, while the solar panels lower to provide entry to the cargo bay.

The interior is quiet simple, though there are a variety of computer screens and control surfaces, including a pair of black nipple elements that function perfectly as small joysticks; exactly the sort of control scheme you’d expect to find in the real rover.

The arms out front can hold a variety of tools but come equipped with a drill and metal detector.

Meanwhile, if your water prospecting ends up being tremendously successful and you find, say, a huge ice geode, you can flip down a platform on the rear of the rover to haul your spectacular finds back to the moonbase.

The minifigures: 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle

The rover includes two astronauts decked out in full space suits, along with a more casually clad driver sporting a ballcap. LEGO has named some of the characters in this theme, but all of these are unnamed. Both of the astronauts include hairpieces for when they’re not wearing their helmets, which is a nice touch. The two astronauts share identical torsos and leg prints, which are an excellent, simple suit design that would look equally at home on these real-life-inspired astronauts as on a sci-fi spaceship. I do wish the suits had a logo on them (or better yet, on the arms). The driver also gets a new torso design with a dark orange jacket with a tiny Classic Space logo in silver.

Two of the printed slopes I mentioned earlier go on the astronauts’ EVA backpacks, which are constructed slightly different from one another, with the male astronaut getting over-the-shoulder lights, and the female having attachment points for a shovel and buzzsaw.

Unboxing the set and contents: 60350 Lunar Research Base

Now that we’ve had a drive about the lunar surface, let’s trundle home to the Lunar Research Base. The much larger box contains seven numbered bags, plug an unmarked bag of large elements. There’s also a few corner BURPs (Big Ugly Rock Pieces) and a light grey 16×16 plate. The three instruction manuals and two sticker sheets are packaged together in a sealed bag.

One of the two sticker sheets is dedicated to solar panels with a reflective gold surface, while other contains various logos and maneuvering ports for the rocket. It’s worth noting that while the City Space theme’s blue planet logo is the old Classic Space logo that I mentioned earlier, two of the logos here are just straight-up un-altered Classic Space logos in the iconic gold and red.

There are a few wholly-new elements to take in here. Two of them are cylinders for the rocket capsule, with a white base and a trans-light-blue windscreen that slots into it. They’re pretty similar to some existing elements, but make for a quick and simple cockpit design here. The set includes just one of each. The third element is a large quarter-dome element in trans-light-blue. It reminds me just a touch of the old-school quarter dome that was the highlight of some of my favorite space sets from the 90s. You’ll get four of them here to make a complete circle, and they’re also available in white in 60351 Rocket Launch Center from this same line.

There are a handful of other parts that aren’t wholly new, but are relatively rare and interesting. The large white mudguard Technic panel (part 46882) has only been available once before in white in 51515 Robot Inventor. The gold dish (part 80337) is a new-for-2022 part that was first seen in Disney Princess minidoll sets, of all places, but appears here for the first time in gold. Other interesting parts include the red Technic friction half pins (part 89678) which is new for 2022 and has only been in a couple of sets, a new-for-2022 clear 1×1 round tile printed with a cell culture in a petri dish (part 6384069) that’s only appeared in 1 other set, the same ice geode rock that appears in several of the City Space sets including the rover we already looked at. Finally there’s a grey claw element (part 91347) that’s not new but hasn’t been seen since 2017, and has only come in four sets total previously.

The three manuals each build separate sections of the model and there’s no indication of which you should begin with, so it’s up to you whether you start with the rocket, the base itself, or the small rovers.

Like the rover’s manual, there’s a section in the manuals showing NASA’s designs of the real Artemis base camp that will be located near the Shackelton crater on the moon’s south pole. Similar to the rover, the LEGO base and rocket have similarities to the real designs but aren’t direct translations.

The build: 60350 Lunar Research Base

Although the booklets aren’t numbered, I opted to go in the order that uses the set’s bags in numbered order, which means starting with the small rovers and a few of the minifigures. Being very simple builds there’s not much build process to examine there so we’ll move on straight to the rocket, which is also fairly simple. The rocket is designed as a two-stage vessel, with the lower booster being a 6×6 cylinder with legs, while the upper stage is the astronaut capsule.

The lower stage is hollow with a mechanism inside that hides a large flame element in the bottom. As the rocket is lifted, the flame “deploys” out the bottom thanks to gravity, making a neat lift-off play feature.

The base camp is built in three modular sections. The center section is constructed on the 16×16 plate and contains the workshop garage for servicing the small vehicles. Two docking ports are set at 45-degree angles on the sides. The back of the station is set into a rock face.

The first side module is built around large aircraft hull elements, and it contains another docking port on the far end, allowing astronaut egress or even further extensions of the base with only minor modifications. The interior is packed with as much science equipment as possible in the small space.

The other side module is very similar, but also includes a second segment that has a super cool function.

Drive the HMP up to the research base, and the end of the module can be raised just like a jet bridge at the airport, allowing the rover to dock with the base while maintaining a pressurized atmosphere. It’s an unexpectedly cool function that’s super fun and definitely makes buying both sets together worthwhile.

Lastly, the base camp gets the second floor above the garage. This large dome contains sleeping quarters and a garden.

It’s covered with the four large quarter dome panels, which combine to make a cool dome. Look closely, and you can spot that one of the astronauts brought a postcard from Heartlake City—it’s a small world after all.

The pieces of the base slot together well, with the domed top attaching with just a few studs, so the garage remains easily accessible.

The completed model: 60350 Lunar Research Base

With all the small vehicles, the full base contains quite a lot of activity to do, which is fitting for how busy NASA’s astronauts would be on their week-long stints on the moon.

There’s a rather large remote-controlled drone with a claw attachment that can go out and hunt for ice and minerals. I haven’t been able to correlate this drone to a specific part of the real Artemis project, so I’m not clear if it’s a LEGO fabrication, though it certainly seems plausible.

This odd-looking little solar-powered rover, however, is definitely not a LEGO invention. NASA has dubbed it the VIPER, AKA the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, and it’s an unmanned vehicle that will map out the moon’s water resources. The real VIPER—planned to head to the moon next year—is about the size of a golf cart, so the LEGO version is a bit miniaturized. But the brick version does contain a drill beneath it just like the real deal.

The set also includes the Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) which is more or less what we’d rec0gnize as the traditional moon rover from the Apollo era, but overhauled with modern technology. The LEGO version has a plow on the front for moving regolith in the hunt for minerals and water, but as far as I can tell NASA has no plans to put a bulldozer on the moon. The rover does fit an astronaut with their EVA suit.

The rocket is the Human Landing System (HLS) which will provide transit for two crew members between the lunar surface and the orbiting space station.

The base itself of course has lots of activity and play features, ranging from the vehicle facility to the science labs and garden.

The minifigures: 60350 Lunar Research Base

The base camp comes with a solid assortment of minifigures with six in total: three astronauts in EVA suits, one astronaut in a flight suit, and two scientists.

Like the astronauts in the rover set, all of the helmeted minifigures include alternate hairpieces for when their helmets are removed. The torsos are identical to those in the rover set.

Two of the astronauts feature double-sided heads.

While Canadian astronaut and former ISS-commander Chris Hadfield has no direct affiliation with the Artemis project, my personal conspiracy theory is that LEGO’s designers just couldn’t help but tossing in a little easter egg of one of the most famous astronauts of the last few decades.

The pilot and research scientists each sport new torso designs, which are emblazoned with the Classic Space logo. The designs are all perfectly understated and look both realistic and useful for a variety of sci-fi settings.

Conclusion & recommendation

Both of these sets are packed to bursting with fun play features and enough spacey goodness to warm any space fan’s heart. The collaboration with NASA on these sets has brought them a real-world gravitas that makes them far cooler, even if they’re only “inspired by” the Artemis project. I would have loved for them to be more accurate models but I have a hard time faulting LEGO for their creative license since these are City playsets aimed at kids 6-7 and up, not Creator Expert kits meant to look good on an adult space fan’s shelf. And even as an adult, if you’ve got nostalgia for actually playing with your LEGO, you’ll find a lot to love here. The docking feature between the base camp and rover is awesome, and the lift-off blast on the rocket is as clever as it is simple.

What’s not awesome is the price. Both of these sets are grossly overpriced, though the base camp is the worse offender. This isn’t the first time that LEGO City Space sets are overpriced, but that doesn’t make it any better this go around. The Lunar Research Base clocks in at $120 USD for just 786 pieces, a price of $0.15 per piece. It’s true that it includes a handful of larger elements, but nowhere near enough to justify this price. Even at $100, this set might have earned a recommendation, but at $120 it’s impossible to say it’s a good buy. The rover fares only a little better with 275 pieces for its $40 USD price point, which works out to just under $0.15 per piece. It’s a fantastic set, but one that ought to be priced at $30.

If you can find them on sale, both sets are well worth adding to your collection, but at full retail cost give them a pass.

60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle includes 3 minifigures and 275 pieces and is available starting March 1 from LEGO for US $39.99 | CAN $49.99 | UK £24.99. It may also be available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

60350 Lunar Research Base includes 6 minifigures and 786 pieces and is available starting March 1 from LEGO for US $119.99 | CAN $149.99 | UK £89.99. It may also be available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with early copies of these sets for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Check out the full gallery of images below.

3 comments on “LEGO City Space 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle & 60350 Lunar Research Base [Review]

  1. Balentius

    The Lunar Rover has come along way, but you can still see the basic design elements they used in the “Mobile Lab” set from 1980 (6901-1)… Yes, I have the parts for that somewhere.

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