Fifty years ago this week, television sets around the planet echoed Neil Armstrong’s now famous words: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Myself? I was slightly less articulate. My best effort to date had been “Goo Goo, Gah. Mumum, Waaaaah” This was, however, age appropriate. Apparently I was in the same room as a television showing the broadcast. At the age of three and three quarter months, however, to say I was watching it would be a stretch of the imagination. By the time Apollo 12 was launched in November 1969, I was up to cruising around some furniture, and I was allegedly distracted from watching a moon landing in the attached photo.
As years past, I remained fascinated with the notion of space exploration, and found myself frequently looking at the ‘Man in Space’ model set, produced by AMT.
Released at the height of the Cold War, this set totally ignored the Russian Space Program, and came with all the manned American Rockets to date: Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions (both the Saturn Ib and Saturn V) this set was not overly complicated – and maintained a good deal of modularity, even after the rocket tanks were cemented ( I suspect Dad actually did this before I first saw it). I remember spending many afternoons as a seven to eight year old, putting the rockets together (that is, assembling the stages in the correct order). This model is probably what first sprung to mind when I saw the LEGO Ideas Saturn V rocket two years ago. Although That was almost twice as large as the childhood model kite (1:110 for the LEGO, 1:200 for Man in Space’
This is all a long, convoluted way of saying, “When I was asked if I would like to look at the new Lunar Lander model (10266) by the LEGO Group’s AFOL Engagement Team, I leapt at the opportunity.” Despite appreciating the achievement, and a a childhood interest, I had never built a larger model of the lunar lander, and this appeared to be an ideal opportunity. While the set arrived at home in time for the set announcement, I was on holiday on the other side of the world. We have finally been in the same room at the same timeline enough to get some building done.
The Box Arrived: it’s a good size, and feels appropriately weighty for a set with 1091 elements. Bags are numbered 1 to 4 – each corresponding to a different phase in the construction.
There is a sticker sheet, packaged in with the instruction manual. The Sticker sheet is a reflective silver material, with a number of square/rectangular stickers to apply. The manual is 120 pages, and opens with instructions for working through the numbered bags in order, the use of the brick separator, and encouraging the use of LEGO Life to download the building instructions. Fun Fact – even though you can download the instructions into LEGO Life, Instructions Plus is not available – just the pdf.
The next few pages highlight aspects of the NASA, the US Space Program, this model and the Apollo 11 Mission itself. And then the building begins.
Setting the Scene
Bag One sets the scene: predominantly plates and tiles, we rapidly build up the scenery. A grid of plates sets up a 28×26 base, inspired by the old Classic space baseplates.
We rapily built up the surface, using a mixture of tiles, plates and modified plates. A variety of sloped bricks enhances the look of the crater, and some curved tiles are used to tidy it all up.
Add an American flag – created using one of the metallic stickers – and an astronaut, and the scene is set.
Rumor has it that Stanley Kubrick was involved in helping to fake the moon landing footage. As fanciful as this sounds, he apparently insisted that he would only be involved if it could be done on location…
Descent into SNOT
The second series of bags set out to build part of the Descent Stage of the Lunar Exploration Module: this octagonal stage included the jet to slow the descent towards the moon’s surface, storage modules including equipment for scientific research, video recording, and the all important ladder!
We start off building a cross shaped frame with brackets on the four ends. the space between these brackets is occupied by the storage for the laser reflection array as well as the movie camera, which broadcast signals back to Earth.
These quadrants are cleverly constructed, using a series of plates and bricks so the the studded surface faces outwards. a ball and socket arrangement allows these modules to be attached at 45º to the brackets seen above.
Plates with a clip bar extend upwards in the middle, presumably to attach to the ascent module. We also install the fuel tanks – red and white cylinders representing the fuel and oxidising agents. We finish this phase, with the octagonal form set up, in search of something Shiny.
The third series of bags is where we see the majority of the new elements for this set: simulating the mylar foil used for protection against heat, as well as micrometeorites, we have a multitude of gold-lacquer tiles, appearing for the first time in this set. 1×2, 1×1 and 2×2 cut out tiles are all represented. So are the radar dishes, used for the feet of the descent module.
We apply the tiles over the exposed brackets to give the characteristic gold shimmer, associated with the descent stage.
We then put together the legs of the ship – with the gold dishes serving as feet. The legs felt a little rickety during construction, but as the supporting braces came into place, they felt quite robust, although the dishes on the end could be rotated or tilted in awkward ways. It also becomes apparent that the display base we build back with the first series of bags is designed for precision placement of the descent module’s legs.
And Ascending Up
The Ascent module houses the astronauts during the landing and take off from the moon. It is built in three distinct parts: the front, back and middle. There are not many exclusive elements in this bag: this appears to be the first time, however, that the jet thrusters have appeared in dark stone grey, and the bows used on the top and bottom of the front segment of the model are relatively new. We also have the parts for our second astronaut. Whether this was Buzz Aldrin or Neil Armstrong in uncertain, as they are, for all intents and purposes, identical.
There are some great examples of Studs Not on Top building here, including this really nifty arrangement of 1x1brackets, designed to bind to a 2×4 plate.
Here is a close up of the binding used between the different sections:
The front of the module contains most iconic set of angles of the model – the part where the designer, Lars Joe Hylding, had to work hard to maintain the recognisable shape, within the constraints of the angles available within the LEGO system.
Putting the ascent and descent modules together, we see the familiar shape coming together.
This set comes with two near identical minifigures, representing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first astronauts to land on the Moon. One has a fairly standard mini figure smile, and the other has a subtly smug smile. I do not care to speculate who is who…
They feature a new torso print, featuring NASA livery, and use the gold visor which also features this year’s LEGO City Space Explorers sets.
Putting It All Together
Even on the bright side of the moon, the available light is limited. One of the things I really enjoyed about photographing this model was the way that the shadows moved around, helping to highlight the unique shape of the lunar excursion module.
Pulling it all apart…
Once the photography was complete, I wondered if I could put the model away… saving space on the LEGOratory shelves. By releasing the legs on the descent module, and dividing up the ascent module, the whole model easily fitted back in the original box. In fact, a smaller box could be used, especially if the legs were completely removed.
I really enjoyed this build: it uses clever building techniques, handles odd angles, and given the way the studs face, just like in space, it is hard to work out, from time to time, which way is up. I found it strange that the descent stage was so parts intensive, yet the ascent module felt like it came together with relatively few elements.
This set is a great way of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Eleven mission, and it’s release just shy of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is just right, although I am sure it will continue to inspire builders into the future.
I give this set four point five out of five (4.5/5) Arbitrary Praise Units. Given the choice between this and the Saturn V Ideas set, I think the Ideas set is still my favourite. BUT that could just be me. What do you think? Leave your comments below, and follow the blog for news, reviews and opinions. The 10266 is currently exclusive to LEGO brand retail, LEGO online and LEGOLAND shops. Until next time…
This set was provided by the LEGO Group’s AFOL Engagement team for review purposes. All opinions are my own.