The recent launch of the the Space X Falcon9, successfully delivering astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard their Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station has renewed public interest in the space program. And at a time when there are so many other problems affecting the world, a little excitement and optimism is what the world needs.
Space exploration has often been associated with this hope and optimism, as we see parts of the universe through new eyes, and discover that we can achieve things that had previously only been dreamt of.
A child excited by the the dream of space travel today might look at the range of LEGO City ‘Mission to Mars’ sets from 2019, and be inspired by such a future, as some of us were 40 odd years ago, when we first saw LEGOLAND Space.
Back in those days, we started with spacemen on a planet somewhere. They had a spaceship, a rover or a base. Or all three. They were all working together: no fighting, just cooperation in achieving the teams goals.
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.
One of the great things about the last few months has been sunny weather, and the chance to build outside during the day, rather than just inside at night (Quick reminder for northern hemisphere readers, it is summer here, and holidays finished only a couple of weeks ago). What became apparent is that when building under sunlight, the trans fluoro reddish orange elements (also called Trans Neon Orange on bricklink) tend to become brighter in the sunlight, with an eerie glow. This was not obvious when working under an incandescent lamp at midnight. It turns out that these transparent fluorescent colours are, intact, fluorescing.
I am working on a display for Brickvention, our local LEGO Fan Convention- It is now less 2 weeks away, and I feel as though I am more on track than I have been any time in the last 10 years. Admittedly, I have previously done a lot of landscaping with trees flowers and rivers. These last few months I have found myself drawn towards Classic Space. It seems odd to me that it has taken so long. Minifigures were first released in Town and Castle in 1978, and Space reached Australia in 1979- I was about nine or ten years old at the time. I remember the ’78 catalog showing some images of space (coming soon), but perhaps my childhood memory and facts are in slight disagreement. Star Wars (back in those days there was only one) was very much inspiring my imagination at this time
Our family collection of space was limited to the Space Scooter 885, Space Buggy 886, Radar Truck 889 and the 1981 Moonbuggy 6801 – although I seem to remember that last one as all gray.
Last week I wrote about revisiting an imaginary childhood with a classic space set that I never owned, the One Man Spaceship 918. While it has brought me great joy, I have had the feeling that it is missing something. Lighting.
While I have written about simple lighting solutions previously, this is likely to need something more complicated. My vision is to provide lighting in the cabin, put running lights under the transparent plates on the thrusters and have lights on the wing tips flashing intermittently.
Over recent years, there have been a number of lighting solutions come onto the market. These feature a microprocessor controller chip, with connections for multiple LEDs. LEDs may be powered by an onboard coin cell or external penlight style AA or AAA batteries. The board itself might be enclosed within a brick sized housing, or the board might be uncovered, but dimensioned such that it can be easily built into your MOC.
A quick word on the ‘purity’ of 3rd party lighting.
There is no doubt that Space exploration captures our imaginations. It can be real or imagined – the hours I spent as a kid poring over the ‘S’ issue of the Encyclopaedia of Nature and Science. Indeed LEGO® has had a reasonable amount of success with space exploration oriented sets, both based on the real world works of NASA, and in the realm of speculative works – particularly when Space, along with Castle and Town became one of the founding LEGO minifigure themes. The ongoing success of LEGO Ideas submissions based on real world space exploration is also testament to its enduring appeal.
A couple of months ago, I started to play LEGO Worlds: the not so new video game, on the Nintendo Switch. One of the things that really taught my imagination was the Classic Space Down Loadable Content. It brought back memories of my childhood: playing with the neighbour who had all the cool sets: he had the 497 Galaxy Explorer. I had the 885 Space Scooter and the 886 Space Buggy. We even drilled holes in his landing pad plate to accommodate LEDs. It looked great until we melted a great big hole in it with the soldering iron.
But playing LEGO Worlds made me start to covet some of those sets that I had never had the opportunity to have as a child. It is one thing to fly them around on a video game screen, but quite another to hold it in your hands and say ‘voosh.’ I found a copy of 918 One Man Space Ship on eBay. I probably paid more than I should have. The trans yellow plate on the roof was cracked along one edge. But the rest was intact, along with the original instructions.
I had been trying to work out what I liked about the old instructions compared to the contemporary design. It isn’t the opportunity to miss five of the twelve elements placed in a given step. It isn’t the suggested layout distracting you the whole way as you see as you continue to build. It is the lack of page turning. Modern instructions are simple and unambiguous. But page turn heavy. I suspect this build might have had up to 50 pages. Every time I let go of the book, it would attempt to close. If things aren’t quite right here, it is easy to scan back over the last 8 steps to see what went wrong, rather than go back page by page, discovering you had a couple of pages stuck together and missed the critical element. On the third reading. I’m glad I have sorted that out with myself. It gives me a level of inner peace.
Assembling it involved 86 pieces of pure joy. The gray was a little different to that which we are now used to. The construction techniques are relatively simple. but this is an extremely swooshable ship. From the tilting roof on the cabin, to the aft storage compartment, construction was simple, and rapid. The red spaceman just sat and smiled. (For the record, 4.5 out of 5 Arbitrary Praise Units)
I ran around the living room with it, swooshing it from side to side, an idiot grin spreading from cheek to cheek. I was amazed at how much joy this simple set provided me with. And I decided to take a couple of pictures. Not many, but I wanted to capture the spirit of ’79. So I considered the old product shots on the box: black back drop with starfield, and perhaps a tan surface. The full space base was going to be impractical to reconstruct. Today, I have a few other things that need to get done.
So I took some black card, and punched holes in it. I placed it inside my lightbox, so that the light shone through the perforations like starlight. A little fill in light, and the vision was complete. No Photoshop, no compositing. Old school physical effects. OK, perhaps I used photoshop to darken the blacks, to disguise the pedestal. I hope you like it.
It still feels as if it is missing something however, for that extra level of realism