Because I grew up during the time of M:Tron and Blacktron, I tend to think of fantastical fictional ships when I think of LEGO space creations. Of course, this totally neglects all the models built of real world spacecraft. Luckily, LEGO fans like Cyndi Bourne produce amazing space creations like her NASA Mars InSight Lander to remind me that space is a real place. This detailed model was originally commissioned by an employee at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, but it was Cyndi’s idea to add the landscaped base. Her landscaping always impresses me and clearly she can build the surface of any planet! While it might seem simple, as the whole landscape is built from various sizes of dark orange plate, achieving this look requires both patience and creativity. You have to know just where to put each plate, and Cyndi clearly knows.
See Mars the scenic way! Take a ride in Guido Brandis‘ fabulous All-Terrain Mobile Laboratory Rover. Its big fat wheels will stop you sinking into the dust, and its large solar panels should provide more than enough power for your journey plus any little experiments you might want to complete on the way. For a one-colour model, this manages to have remarkable visual impact, and that’s down to the density of the detail applied to every surface. This thing is greeble-tastic, with functional-looking elements applied everywhere — piping, antennae, comms dishes, and paneling. The presentation of the model is also excellent (nice work on the shadows in particular), making the vehicle look properly embedded in its environment. I’d love to hit Valles Marineris in this bad boy–those Martians, they see me rollin’ and they be hatin’.
Fifteen years of unprecedented discovery came to an official end last week when NASA bid a final and touching farewell to its Opportunity rover. The announcement was marked by profound, even personal, loss for those who followed the rover’s journey across the Martian landscape. Outpourings of sorrow for the fallen explorer prevailed as at any funeral. I’ve seen few remembrances, however, as expressive or poignant as one shared in LEGO form by Stefan Schindler.
With her mission over, Opportunity appears to be guided by Curiosity, who alone remains to carry on the mission. Awaiting Opportunity is her departed twin, Spirit, and Sojourner, the first to land and travel on the red planet. There is a subtle, almost heartbreaking glance between Opportunity and Spirit. As if a few more discoveries would have made her inevitable end a little easier. It’s a small but incredibly eloquent scene, both honoring the history of the Mars program while conveying its current hope.
By the time the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars with its splashy “Sky Crane” in 2012, the unassuming Opportunity rover had already been trundling across our neighboring planet’s surface for 8 years. But on February 13, NASA declared its 15-year mission over, having received the last transmission from the rover ahead of a major dust storm on June 10, 2018. To commemorate the end of the mission for what is arguably one of humankind’s greatest achievements, here’s my LEGO Opportunity that I built back in 2012.
I’ve often imagined what it might be like to live on Mars. The Red Planet has been the subject of many science fiction movies and novels, one of the most famous of which would have to be The Martian, a novel by Andy Weir that was also made into a movie. These scenes by
Andreas Lenander do a wonderful job depicting life on Mars in the not too distant future.
I love the simple shape of the ship, especially the curved elements on each side, that look fragile and sleek at the same time. The greebly pipes on top feel very functional, and a bit delicate. The rover and fueling station also stand out against the stark landscape.
The post-production lighting and the overall bleak and desaturated colors set a very somber mood, while the use of simple plates and bricks for the surface don’t draw attention away from the vehicles.
Human imagination can create both incredible and terrifying things. And the latest creation by Japanese builder Moko perfectly illustrates this thesis. This absolutely bizarre creature from Mars is odd in so many ways. Not only does its overall design gives me shivers, but also the choice of pieces and their combinations are simply outlandish. Can you guess what piece is used for the martian’s snout?
If Arsia Prime looks as good in real life as it does in the pictures, sign me up! Just like The Martian, everything about this off-world arboretum is fantastically realistic. The terrain is gorgeous, offering a stunning variety of layering, subtly blended colors, and unique rock formations. Builder Ryan Howerter describes this simply as “a relatively near-future colony on Mars.” With the daily advances of space travel, these words may not be too far from the truth.
Just in time for Ridley Scott’s film The Martian, Ryan Howerter presents his beautiful model of MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission satellite. His model is a commission for the University of Colorado Boulder, for display at the CU Heritage Center. MAVEN recently celebrated its first year in orbit around Mars.
This is the third model he’s built for the University of Colorado; MAVEN joins Voyager 2 and the Apollo 11 Service Module.
Apparently, there are some Lego CUUSOO fans in the chalk art world. Check out this amazing rendition of the Curiosity Rover (recently announced to be an upcoming CUUSOO set) on the sidewalk. Thanks to Stephen Pakbaz for the heads up!
Having immersed myself quite deeply in both the recent news from Mars and as a judge of the Real World Starfighter Contest, I felt compelled to do a bit of building to scratch that space itch. I’d already built Stephen Pakbaz’s Curiosity, so just had to build Sojourner (landed 1997) and Opportunity (landed 2004 and still operational) in approximately the same scale.
There’s nothing functional about my LEGO Sojourner, but Opportunity has working rocker-bogie suspension (which I struggled mightily to build, since the design is different from Curiosity’s, and I couldn’t simply scale down Stephen’s LEGO version). I plan to build the lander at some point, too.
After he landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong, astronaut Buzz Aldrin came up with an idea for a craft that would cycle back and forth between the Earth and Mars, providing significantly greater comfort for astronauts during the five-month journey. With the cancellation of the Constellation program, the dream of regular travel to and from the Moon and Mars seems even farther away. Nevertheless, I still find the idea inspiring, and built my own rendition of an “Aldrin Mars Cycler”.
UPDATE (June 14, 2013): LEGO MSL Curiosity Rover is go for launch!
Back on August 5th when I first highlighted the excellent Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover project by Stephen Pakbaz (Perijove) on LEGO CUUSOO, the project had been online for about eight months and had accumulated about 1,300 votes.
In a sign that timing is everything (with a little help from a few friends on the web), Stephen’s Curiosity project hit 10,000 supporters this weekend. In fact, the project gained its final 5,000 supporters in less than 24 hours.
(I wanted to use a picture of the model we haven’t already used several times here on the blog. Stephen’s proposed model for the project doesn’t include the skycrane, but how awesome would that be?!)
I used Stephen’s instructions to build the rover myself yesterday, and it’s a really excellent model. The build itself was very enjoyable, and I even learned a few SNOT techniques I hadn’t seen before. The final model includes so much detail and functionality it’s really fun to play with, in addition to being just shy of fully functional (with working “rocker bogie” suspension, stowable mast & arm, and little details like forward and rear haz-cams).
However, Stephen’s rover does include a handful of unusual parts, and parts in quantities or colors that I don’t have (especially the Technic parts for a mainly SYSTEM builder like me). Even with my substantial, relatively well-sorted collection, it took me the better part of an afternoon to dig around and gather all the parts, and I still had to place a couple small Bricklink orders to replace parts I don’t have at all in the right colors.
All of this is to say that an official set will be a great way to easily get all of the necessary building materials for a reasonable price — as I’m sure LEGO won’t be charging $2 for the white bracket (of which the model requires two), for example.
Congratulations to Stephen, and I can’t wait to see how LEGO handles this particular project. Specifically, I’d love to see LEGO accelerate the approval of this project, given LEGO’s existing partnership with NASA, the clear educational value of the model, and the current “space fever” gripping the world.
Finally, in case you missed it last week, be sure to check out our interview with Stephen Pakbaz (who worked at JPL as an engineer on the Curiosity project) right here on TBB.
We’re generally not as quick to blog Technic and MINDSTORMS models here, so with apologies to our readers who’ve already seen this (but in the interest of completeness): Will Gorman and Doug Moran recently built a fairly functional version of the Mars Curiosity Rover, with four of six working wheels, robotic arm, and mast.
According to the builders, “The Curiosity Rover was created with 7 NXT Bricks, 13 NXT Motors, 2 Power Function Motors, and over 1000+ LEGO Bricks. The software was developed using leJOS NXJ.”
The LEGO Group provided all the LEGO, and the rover was featured at LEGO and NASA’s Build the Future in Space event at Kennedy Space Center.