The International Space Station has hosted a continuous human presence in Earth's orbit for almost 20 years. Now, the orbiting laboratory is being made into a Lego model. Lego will release an 864-piece toy set of the ISS that will shrink the football-field-long space station to the size of a desktop display model. However, fans may rest assured that most details such as its rotating solar arrays and robotic arms will still be preserved.
"Build and display this spectacular Lego Ideas International Space Station (ISS). Packed with authentic ISS details, including a posable Canadarm2 and two rotating joints that coincide with eight adjustable 'solar panels,' this 864-piece set is a wonderful gift idea for space enthusiasts, adult Lego fans or any experienced builder," wrote Lego in its announcement. Lego will commercially release the ISS toy model from February 1 and it will be available in Lego Stores and the official Lego website for $69.99 (about Rs 4,900).
While the space station model is quite a neat acquisition in itself, collectors might also be interested to know that the set comes with toy bricks to build a to-scale space shuttle orbiter and three cargo vehicles. In fact, one of the cargo vehicles resembles a SpaceX Dragon capsule while another seems quite similar to the Russian Progress craft. Lego's ISS model also comes with two microfigure sized astronaut figures (probably a legacy from Lego's NASA Apollo Saturn V set that was released in 2017 and discontinued late last year).
While Lego had announced the International Space Station in June last year (it was a fan favourite in a poll celebrating a decade of the Lego Ideas website), the idea was first conceived five years earlier. Christoph Ruge, a Lego and Space enthusiast from Germany, first submitted his ISS model to the Legos Ideas website in 2014. It made it to the Lego team's review panel but was rejected in 2015. However, in 2018, Ruge re-scaled his design to match the size of the shuttle included in the winning "Women of NASA" set before re-entering his model. Finally, his design was selected for the 10-year anniversary set.
The International Space Station was established in December 1988 with the launch of the first Russian and American components in orbit. Expedition crew began to reside in 2000. Since then, the ISS has seen continuous astronaut occupancy with 60 more resident crew and components from Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency (ESA). Lego commemorates this with the NASA 'ISS 20 Years' logo on the rear side of the box.
This is Lego's third commercial production of the International Space Station as a toy model. In 2003, Lego had produced a Discovery Channel-branded 162 brick set of the still-under-construction ISS. Eight years later, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, under and educational partnership between NASA and Lego, had produced a model while onboard the ISS. However, its major drawback was that could only be built in zero-gravity and would have collapsed on Earth.