It has been a little over 40 years since I fell in love with the idea of LEGOLAND® Space. Those initial sets put forward a future where people were collaborating in exploration, mining, and seeking out new worlds. All while improbably controlling vehicles with a steering wheel, and only installing cabins on to craft cabable of inter-planetary travel. All while drinking coffee in a base with the main control room open to the vacuum of space or whatever hostile atmosphere the team were facing this week.
After Exploring Classic Town, I have been planning a series on ‘Whatever Happened to Classic Space?’ to arrive over the next few months. A lot of the answer depends on how you define Classic Space. While some might limit the definition to sets that include the logo with the shuttle orbiting a planentoid – others might use the definition of sets released before the arrival of Futuron and Blacktron in 1987; Others might feel that to use colours other than Blue, light grey and transparent yellow might be pushing a friendship.
Personally, I believe there is a ‘spirit’ of Classic Space: cooperative exploration, humans working together to extend their reach beyond earth, to explore the galaxy peacefully. The presence of the Classic Space Logo helps. LEGO City has had a recurring space subtheme since the mid noughties. Traditionally, these sets have been set on Earth, until in 2019, we had a variety of shuttles and rovers preparing to head to Mars. Don’t get me wrong: we had sets on Earth, as well as off-world, and they appeared to have been designed with some more practical details: closed cabins, computer screens and shields on the front of helmets, but they embraced the spirit of 1978-87.
Flash forward to 2022, and the LEGO®City theme in exbracing sets Inspired by NASA once again – bases and craft that are more realistic and practical than those from the fantasy world of my childhood- these sets are inspired by the Artemis program – NASA’s plan to return to the moon. In Greek Mythology, Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo, and so using the name for the return to the moon seems appropriate.
There are currently 4 sets slated for release this year: 60348 Lunar Rover; 60349 Lunar Space Station; 60350 Lunar Research Base; and 60351 Rocket Launch Centre. The Lunar Rover and Lunar research Base are slated for release on 1st March 2022, but I was able to find them on the shelves at my local toy shop a couple of days early. (I am yet to hear any reports of 60349 and 60351 in the wild).
Today, I’d like to present the Lunar Research Base – with 786 pieces, and 6 mini figures, the set has a RRP of AUD159.99. This set contains a number of sub builds: A small rover and autonomous robot with two astronauts; A lunar landing module with another (but seating for two); a jet propelled drone and finally the base, with a workshop and habitat dome. There are a number of new elements included in this set; some great new figure designs and just a few more stickers than I could place on accurately (for the record, once I am past 3 stickers, I seem to have an ever increasing chance of failure.
The set comes with seven numbered bags, one unnumbered bag, and a few large loose elements. There are three instruction books: one covering bag one (the rovers); one for bag two (the flight module) and a larger book, to cover the rest.
Lets take a look at the new minifigures and the elements, and then look at the sub builds.
In the past, just about every space theme has had a coherent use of colour throughout the theme, and this 2022 range is no different. Its certainly not blue/grey/transparent yellow, but it is predominantly white with transparent light blue elements. Dark Blue, pearl gold and greys also feature, highlighting different aspects of the detail in the build. I feel this new color palette feels more optimistic than the white with orange, black and grey trim of the 2019 range.
We have 6 minifigures: 3 in white spacesuits, two in blue coveralls, to wear within a pressurised atmosphere, and a flame yellowish orange suit.
The white suits features dual molded arms – white and dark azure; while the legs feature dak azure hips. There are a number of connections for equipment for the suit preinted on the front and back, as well as a silver belt around the lower torso. There is no specific ‘Space Logo’ printed on the front of the figure,although there is a triangular logo mid leg which is also repeated on the back of the torso. These figures come with a dark azure bracket, which hangs over the back, with a 2×2 studs on the back, allowing connection with a new design of oxygen tank – essentially a 2×2 curved slope, with a modified Classic space logo: no longer is the planet printed silver, but rather includes a blue planet being circled by a red shuttle. These backpacks feature slighhtly different designs between astronauts, allowing different configurations. The helmets used on these suits are the same as those seen in the 2019 City Mars Mission sets. However, the visor is opague gold.
The Flame yellowish orange suit looks better than I expected, and allong with the connections relevant for the suit. The arms a single coloured, but the hands and hips are dark azure. This torso features a more traditional golden Space logo over the right breast, leaving no doubt as to the legacy these sets are trying to live up to. The figure has a dark blue visor on his helmet.
Finally, the ‘jump suit’ coveralls, worn by members of the team in pressurised environments are dark azure. they are not wearing gloves. The torso has a zip printed down the middle, as well as pockets on both sides, and printed colars. There is a silver, winged insignia over their left breast. A Classic Space logo, in Silver and red is on the right.
For the figures, we have 6 different heads, three men, three women. There are two women with alternate expressions, and one man. There are 6 different hair elements in grey, cool yellow, black, reddish brown, dark brown and dark orange. – available for whenever the astronauts take their helmets off.
I feel the torso printing for these figures provides good service to the legacy of classic space, while maintaining the detail in torso and leg printing that we have come to expect in LEGO City in the present era.
Looking at the elements, there are a few things that stand out. One is the limited colour palette: there is virtually no use of bright random colours that are going to be hidden in the middle of a build. A few red, a few tan and a few reddish brown, and a carrot: most are appropriate in context. But the majority of elements fit into those used to define the theme. Overall however, there are the sort of elements you might expect for a space set:wheels, antennae, windscreens. There are a few welcome returns: the ‘Space wing’ introduced in 1985 all but vanished after 1999. After appearing (in medium stone grey) in 2011 and 2016, a white version of the element made a clandestine return in 2020 through some of the Frozen sets. We have 4 here, along with megaphones and winged 1×1 round elements. Grey triangular plates (albeit only with a 45º hypotenuse) abound. A slotted radar dish in medium stone grey completes the nostalgia trip. The 1x6x4 2/3 rectangular frame returns, after being used for docking rings in the 2019 Mission to Mars sets – and will receive repeated attention here. The crane element is reinstated, after few appearances in 2016.
There are a couple of new elements present, including the cockpit and windscreen element which will be used for the flight module; There are golden recolours of the wheels and two rock elements. And it would be completely remiss of me to miss the large quarter dome element in transparent light blue. They will appear in white, as part of an observatory roof in due course, but for now, these large impressive elements will form the basis of many bases going forward.
There are a couple of printed elements, notably the 2x2x2/3 curved slopes with the new coloured space logo, and a 1×1 round tile printed with amoebae, looking for examingation under the microscope.
Finally, we have the moon rocks: these silver metallic rocks are lined with a transparent blue crystal, to give the feeling of being some sort of geode.
In this bag, we have two female astronauts. It doesn’t take long to start triggering nostalgia, as one will be carrying the updated ‘metal detector’ accessory, which lost the stud on top a few years back
We start out building a small crated, containing a geode, with a microscopic sign of life present. We have two vehicles: a buggy, with control levers, and a slope behind the driver, but also a few other details that would have made our original buggy from 1979 a safer drive: head lights, tail lights, a roll bar and safety rails. The front-mounted plough dish is reminiscent of M-tron and Ice planet themes from the ’90s, and will help clear a path through the moon dust. This attention to detail is admirable, but I wonder where the impetus is coming from: children? designers? parents? NASA? Ultimately, this was something I needed to refer to the instructions to build.
To be honest, this buggy and astronaut alone could have worked as a standalone set, with nothing else – a perfect pocket money set. Bertainly, in the early days, sets were released with less…
But wait, there is more: there is also a small remote laboratory, collecting core samples from the moon’s surface, while having its power cells regenerated from the solar panels. These panels are from mirrored foil sticker stock, and there are a few to get in place during the build. It’s not a bad sheet, but the gold trim is probablly more appropriate for space craft, rather than earth bound buildings.
Bag Two: The Flight Module
The Flight Module is piloted by the astronaut in the flame yellowish-orange spacesuit, and the dark visor. The module feele like it is made as an octagonal compromise for a round structure, using medium stone grey panels more typically seen on castle walls than on spaceships. The diagonal panels on the main fuselage have more solar cell stickers, challenging both my patience and the steadiness of my hand.
The cockpit /canopy module attaches to the core via two technic pins. It is 8 studs in diameter, although flattened on the bottom aspect. It is cylindrical for 5 studs, and then reduces its diameter to 4 studs at the front end. The caanopy is attached via four studs, and can be removed relatively easily. There are 4 studs facing forward at the front, allowing a cone or similar to be attached to the front. In this model, we have a ring of bricks and a dark blue circular plate, topped of with a 4 module round radar dish. The cockpit is set up to allow 2 minifigures to be seated, with computers to function as control panels
Lateral solar panels are achieved using flat gold ‘rock bases’ which otherwise appear in the Disney Princess sets this year. The craft has 4 legs, which splay out at around 50º. and have 2 stud round radar dishes as the feet. There is a jet exhaust at its base. Unfortunately, the maneuvreing thursters only exist as prints on a sticker applied to the canopy. There is a ladder which extends down to the top of the legs, and I presume that from there that the dismount might be somewhat…inelegant and frought with peril. Especially if sharp rocks are nearby..
I do not feel that this craft will have the same enduring beauty that sees the 918 Space Cruiser to remain a desirable item to this day, but it is not without its beauty.
Bag Three (a): The Drone of Nostalgia
The Third bag brings us a jet propelled drone, full of nostalgic space elements: A-frame wings, megaphone/gun/scanners and the winged 1×1 round bricks (in dark stone grey) all bring a feeling of times gone past. Wthere are a couple of rounded elements, as well as an antenna/control lever. The strangest aspect is the winding of a tow rope hub in the centre of the drone, with large crane jaws suspended below. The crane is essentially an updated version of the system included in a few sets in 2016. The most disappointing aspect of this set is the need to place stickers on 1x2x2/3 slopes, the printing is almost too small for me to be sure I was putting the sticker on the correct way. I do suspect, however, there would be sufficient demand to make this element a print. Particularly if this livery continues beyond a single wave of sets.
As I mentioned, this part of the build brought a lot of Olde Worlde emotions with it. The A-frame wing was reintroduced a year or two ago after a prolonged absence – particularly in white. Here are some of the sets thatwere brough to mind as I put it together.
Bags Three (b) and Four: The Garage
Next we move onto the main workshop/parking bay of the base.centred on a light medium grey 16×16 plate, we quickly set up the basic walls, come yellow ‘safety trim’ and add on some angled plates, which will provide a point of attachment for the side corridors. We add in some tools, as well as safety barricades, and build onto the plate, adding two corner mountain elements to the back.
After securing these, this central area is left with a hole in the roof, and two hatchway elements heading out at 45º to the main axis of the ‘garage.’ We seal up the rear aspects of these side corridors with curved panels.
To complete the module, we add some lights to the front of the garage, and apply a technic fascia around the main entrance. Before that goes into place, the entrance looks like this, perhaps taking some design cues from the first wave of Classic Space.
Bag Five: The Laboratory
Next, we build the module heading out to the right hand side of the base. it uses similar elements to an airplane fuselage, top and bottom, using transparent light blue 1×2 bricks as the windows. In side the laboratory, we have a microscope, as well as a bell jar connected to a conical flask. In the bell jar is a small printed tile, featuring microscopic life.
There are only a couple of studs attaching the roof onto this module, allowing it to be easily removed. On the roof, we add an iconic slotted radar dish, as well as further solar panels. One end of this laboratory is attached to the main base, and is secured in place. The other end is covered over by a 6 stud diameter, white hatch, which can open, allowing entry and egress. Of course, it would also be possible to attach another module, perhaps even one based on 2019’s 60227 Lunar Space Station.
Bag Six: The Command Centre and Docking Hatch
The command centre has similar underlying structure to the laboratory, and has a computer screen on one side, and a shelf with room for helmets or hair pieces on before a couple of members of the crew go out for a moonwalk.
Attacher to the end of this module is a corridor built in two parts – an inner/lower aspect, and an outer/upper aspect. They are attached by hinges to the command centre at one end and a hatchway at the other. This corridor can move up and down, to bring it up to the same height as the external hatchways on the 60548 Lunar Rover (review coming soon…). This is a really clever mechanism, and at wither extreme of the movement, it ‘snaps’ into place. I really appreciate the way this is designed to integrate with the other ‘moon’ set (I’ll find some images of this to share soon).
Bag Seven: The Living Quarters and Garden
Finally, we come to the biodome, incorporating sleeping quarters, dining area and garden for growing food. We build up an octagonal base, 14 studs across. One side has a small cargen patch, including sprouting carrots, crystams and other plants. Mean while, along the other sides of the dome, we have 2 beds – designed to hold the astronauts snug and sound. On the 4th wall, there is a desk, with a carrot being prepared in some shape or fashion. There are some bowls, spoons and, of course, red coffee cups. In deference to the classic space men being able to drink coffee in the base with no door, while still wearing their helmets, the dome is pressurised, and no space suit is required! The only complaint I have here is that, like most LEGO houses, there is only room for 2 astronauts to sleep. Perhaps they work in three shifts, or there is a small bunk I missed in the back of the garage.
There is so much that I love about this set. There are so many nostalgic callbacks: from the inclusion of a buggy, to the elements used in the drone, and to say nothing about the new minifigure prints.
It is hard not to draw comparison between this set, with the sets of the late 70s, be it the 920 Rocket Launch Pad, or the 926 Command Centre. It certainly includes a number of elements in common, including rovers, a building, with or without a space craft – at which point I wonder if we would consider the lunrar model here equivalent to 918 or one of the space scooters.
The choice of elements – as well as the consistent colour palette – leave me feeling as though this set could function as a generic space parts pack. It might, perhaps, benefit from an extra couple of plates and another cockpit element.
I almost found myself overwhelmed by a feeling of nostalgia as I put the set together. Between the sub assemblies feeling simultaneously fresh and familiar, as well as the use of consistent design language, elements commonly used during space sets in the 1980s, I had to pause for a moment to regain composure on more than one occasion. I find it hard to fault the overall composition of the elements in front of me.
The builds are interesting, but not overly complex. I am not worried about pulling the set apart to build something else, for fear of three hours being required to get things together. There is great variety between the minifigures, both their faces, and general body prints. I feel happy that the design has moved past the ‘traditional’ Classic Space logo, but it is still similar enough to merge old and new sets.
If your child is interested in playing with sets based on space exploration, they will probably be satisfied with this set for some time. There is scope for setting up alternative base layouts, or adapting the tubular laboratories to a spaceship. If you grew up on Classic Space sets in the 70s and 80s, you will find much to love here. Of the side builds, the drone crane was an interesting play feature, but perhaps felt like a feature added on for dubious reasons. The drone itself feels good – and it completes a gap in the set, unless you also own the Lunar rover, by providing a way to transport rock samples back to the lab.
The buggy is terrific, and the mobile droid is an interesting aspect of space exploration to consider. The main hanger/workshop area brought me joy. It could have been extremely greebled, and complex to put together. Instead, it should be relatively simple to dismantle and rearrange, as you might wish, knowing that reassembling won’t take too long.
I was really impressed by the corridor, raising up to meet the hatch of the Lunar Rover. This degree of consideration left me delighted that I was able to adopt an appropriate sense of play, without threatening my explorers with the risk of extreme gravitational peril – or at least falling from a great height.
I am happy to give this set 4.5 out of 5 Abritary Praise units. But I have not been swept off my feet so much that I cannot see a few flaws: the stickers became a little onerous, and the more I applied, the more skewiff and misaligned they became.
My inner pedant was concerned about the inadequate bedding availale for a based staffed by six.
But these two quibbles are minor in the scheme of things. In fact, there is really only one major issue I have with this set: I believe it could have been released as three or four seperate sets. When I was a kid, it was fantastic to be able to go to the toy shop, having saved up my pocket money for a few weeks, and buy a smaller space set. In Australia, the smallest, cheapest set is the Lunar Rover, priced at $AUD50. It’s a shame that there isnt the chance to pick up sets one by one. However I guess we only have to deal with the availability of four sets this year, not 15.
So, Is it Classic Space? I certainly feel that this set has a lot to offer the nostalgic Space Fan. It is not about re-presenting those early years: It is about wrapping that feeling, into a package that is recognisable by looking at NASA’s current research. This is what LEGO City is all about: presenting LEGO sets of things that kids might see as they look about the world around them, as they chase their interests. The Classic Space logo may have undergone some changes to appear in this set. That’s a fair thing: there are hardly any logotypes in use around the world today that have not undergone some form of metamorphosis in the last 40 years. But Classic Space is about an attitude: adventure, cooperation, and no one to blast out of the sky, while enjoying zero gravity coffee out of a mug.
The sets are united here through a colour scheme in a style reminiscent of that early branding. LEGO City might not be where Classic Space fans were expecting to see their raison d’être resurrected. And I know there is a longing. But this is not the only place where we find space sets in the LEGO portfolio today.
This review seems to be as good a place as any to announce my upcoming ‘Whatever Happened to Classic Space?’, where we will look at what defined the look of Classic Space, what came afterwards, as conflict became used as a driver of story telling, before coming back to roost. While Classic Space fans may have felt neglected in recent years, the LEGO group have not forgotten the heritage, and we shall look into some of the places where the love has been shown to the Fans, even if it was not completely obvious at the time. Be sure to follow the Rambling Brick to keep up with this series… coming real soon.
As you might have gathered, I am feeling a little enthusiastic about this set. It has a lot for the Classic Space Fan and it has great play value for children who might be interested in the idea of space exploration.
You can pick 60350 Lunar research Base up at local retailers, or LEGO Branded stores from March 1st, 2022. If you are interested, consider using these affiliate links: the Rambling Brick might receive a small commission for any purchase made using these links. Funds raised go towards maintaining the website.
How do you feel about the new LEGO City Lunar Research Base? Is it a set you will pick up? Does it embrace the idea of Classic Space – If not for you, then for your kids or grandkids? Leave your comments below, and until next time,