The International Space Station, the first component of which was launched in 1998, has been occupied continuously for almost 20 years…so it must be time for a Lego kit! And here it is, the latest in the Lego Ideas series, created by Lego fans lucky enough to have their designs built and marketed by this iconic company. This one is based on an idea by Christoph Ruge, who worked on several versions from 2014 and gained the 10,000 community votes required for consideration by the company. Initially rejected, the idea passed a ‘10th anniversary review’ in 2018 and this is the result.
This 864-piece set is a decent facsimile of the ISS, measuring about 48 x 30 x 24 cm when complete. It is mounted on a Lego-built stand with a Space Shuttle, capsule and several ‘cargo spacecraft’ that can be docked to the station. There are even some astronauts for scale. Like the real thing, the model bristles with payloads, communications antennas and a posable manipulator arm.
The solar arrays are a large part of the ISS and are reproduced quite well in the model, given the impossibility of building such flimsy features to scale. The four array sections and two radiator panels on each end of the station rotate as a group on the main truss axis and each of the eight array sections rotates along its own axis (just like the real ones). The only questionable issue is the choice of bright orange for the underlying array supports, but when one considers that these back-surfaces often take on a golden colour due to reflected sunlight, the designers can be forgiven.
The 128-page full-colour booklet included in the box illustrates the construction process with superb clarity - and only confused this amateur builder once or twice during the build. The booklet includes a few details on the real ISS, but most of the additional pages are either adverts or features on the so-called ‘fan-designers’.
The Lego space station would make a great gift for Lego fans and space enthusiasts alike. But for someone more in the latter camp than the former, a key question might be: am I happy to display this Lego model in my office? In this case the answer is a definite yes. Once you’ve put the effort in to identify and fit together nearly 900 pieces – some of them rather small and fiddly - it would be crazy to put it in a cupboard. More positively, when viewed from a metre or so, the casual observer would be hard-pressed to identify it as ‘mere Lego’. So it’s on display in my office (I’m not sure how I’m going to dust it though!).