Paying homage to the 40th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle flight on 12 April 1981, LEGO has launched the new LEGO NASA Space Shuttle Discovery set that will bring the wonder of space exploration back home.
The new set is a detailed recreation of the STS-31 mission launched in April 1990 and saw the orbiter Discovery and its five crew members deploy the Hubble Space Telescope into the cosmos. Ever since, Hubble has shared wondrous images of deep space, leading to breakthroughs in astrophysics and space exploration.
The new set was officially revealed by former NASA Astronaut Dr Kathy Sullivan who was part of the original NASA STS-31 mission, over 30 years ago, which launched the Hubble Telescope – capturing images of our universe, to help us understand more about the great beyond.
The accurate-to-scale LEGO NASA Space Shuttle Discovery is made up of 2,354 pieces, 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 aeroplane does. The tail’s rudder serves as a speed brake to assist in landing control and rollout on the runway after touchdown.
The interior from the upper flight deck down and through the mid-deck and out to the payload bay is sure to please both builders and space enthusiasts alike. 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.
The same attention to detail has been applied to the Hubble Space Telescope, with its hinged mirror housing just like the actual telescope and 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.
Milan Madge, LEGO Set Designer commented “The Space Shuttle is the most complex vehicle ever made, so as you can imagine, translating this into LEGO was an exciting challenge. In the real vehicle, every inch of space is used in ingenious ways.”
“Generally, in a LEGO model, we can rely on the size to accommodate the structure that holds the whole set together. But on the Discovery Space Shuttle, we needed to create a smooth exterior and an interior capable of holding the payload. Add functional landing gear and you have a real puzzle.”
“This was without a doubt the most challenging part of this model – trying to couple the front and main landing gear without removing any space from the payload bay and without compromising the structure of the model. My favourite part of the set is the tiny blue seats that carried 5 human beings away from their home planet on a mission that allowed us to discover parts of the universe never seen before!”
Once complete, the set also comes with stands and information plaques, allowing you to display your creation with pride.
To celebrate the launch of the new LEGO NASA Space Shuttle Discovery, the LEGO Group also spoke exclusively to Former NASA Astronaut Dr. Kathy Sullivan to reveal details of her experience on board the original NASA STS-31 mission and how the real-life space shuttle compares to the LEGO model’s detailed reimagination of the spacecraft and famous Hubble Space Telescope.
As part of the wider LEGO Go beyond campaign, that kicks off with this product launch, space and LEGO fans alike can head to lego.com/gobeyond to watch the interview and find out more about the original mission, discover more about the LEGO NASA Space Shuttle Discovery set and access some great online space learning tools from LEGO Education.
The LEGO NASA Space Shuttle Discovery set is available at LEGO Certified Stores from 1 April 2021.