I just need a bit of Space [Down the retro rabbit hole, with Set 918]

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.

LEGO Worlds has let me build that space base I couldn’t build in 1979

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.

Oldschool instructions: more pieces per step BUT easier to scan back over previous steps to see what you missed, without flicking through lots of pages

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

Time to think about that.

Until next time,

Play Well.


Women of NASA: unsung heroes of one generation, inspiration for the next!

Untitled 8.pngThe Announcement last year that the Women of NASA ideas submission from Maia Weinstock was to be developed into a set seemed to be greeted with a combination of excitement and disappointment, from different parties. There were complaints of it just being a collection of minifigures,  only appealing to girls, not having as many elements as a UCS Millennium Falcon and being yet another NASA related Ideas set! But it is so much more than that.

Certainly with only 231 elements, it is the second smallest Ideas set to hit the market, next to the 21110 Research Institute, which was released in 2014. After the Old fishing store, however, I don’t need to have another set with a high piece count on display.

The set features several women who are notable in their contribution to the US space program in varied ways: I will discuss each of them in turn with their vignette.

This set was released on November 1st, and took a few weeks to make its way from Denmark to Melbourne. The box, like many of the Ideas  sets is robust, and designed to be kept. It is a similar design to many of the other ideas sets, as well as the boxes for the Architecture series.

The instruction manual provides a background on each of the people portrayed in the set, as well as both the fan designer and the set designers from the LEGO Group.

Continue reading