NASA and the LEGO Group independently participated in the First Robotics Competition and MIT Media Lab project, kicking off years of collaboration by both NASA and the LEGO Group in FIRST robotic challenges that culminated in the 2018-2019 season with four space-themed challenges.
The LEGO Group teamed with the Planetary Society and NASA’s Mars Public Engagement Program to execute a NASA contest to name the Mars Exploration Rovers. NASA selected the names “Spirit” and “Opportunity” through a student essay contest that drew nearly 10,000 entries. The LEGO Group also helped NASA to provide an opportunity to “Send Your Name to Mars” on a mini-DVD on board each of the twin rovers. Each DVD carried the names of about 4 million people to two different locations on Mars that, over the course of the rovers’ years-long journeys, would each reveal signs of ancient water, a key ingredient for life as we know it.
The LEGO Group constructed a life-size model of the NASA Mars Exploration Rover, displayed at several museums, conferences, and public events to promote the “Name the Rovers” competition and the Mars mission.
Nine-year-old Sofi Collis, a 3rd grader from Arizona who was adopted from Siberia, submitted an essay suggesting the names “Spirit” and “Opportunity” and won the contest.
Soon after, NASA launched the Mars Spirit and Opportunity rovers from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Each rover included construction bricks and an image of an “astrobot” (astronaut robot) brick character affixed to the spacecraft, as well as a CD with a digital list of names from the “Send Your Name to Mars” contest. Through the Planetary Society’s “Red Rover Goes to Mars” outreach effort, astrobot mini-characters named Biff Starling (on board Spirit) and Sandy Moondust (on board Opportunity) blogged about their journey to Mars during the initial stages of the mission. These mini-characters and the mini-DVD components were made from materials able to withstand the harsh Martian environment.
Based on the design information provided by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech, the LEGO Group released the “LEGO Mars Exploration Rover” kit, which included replicas of the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter, one of the Mars Exploration Rovers, and the Delta II rocket and launch tower that carried both to Mars. The LEGO Group also produced a larger, more complex model of Spirit/Opportunity. Both kits were part of a licensed “Discovery Kids” theme, which sought to connect students with real rather than science-fiction space missions.
Image Credit: Daderot
The LEGO Group donated its life-sized Spirit/Opportunity rover model made of LEGO bricks to the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitors Center, where it remains on view to the public today.
The LEGO Group released NASA-inspired products in their LEGO CITY line and, together with NASA, developed innovative educational STEM-related activities and products. Several of the educational LEGO sets flew on board the International Space Station (ISS), where they were assembled by astronauts on-orbit along with children and student groups across the country.
Then-NASA Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut Leland Melvin (center) blasts off a rocket for young participants at a “Build the Future” event sponsored by the LEGO Group at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex, Wednesday, April 27, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla.Image Credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers
The final launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor STS-134 carried a LEGO bricks payload that would later be assembled by astronauts on the ISS to demonstrate differences in how LEGOs react in zero gravity compared to LEGOs on Earth. NASA and the LEGO Group held another “Build the Future” event in advance of the Space Shuttle Endeavor STS -134 mission launch.
Three LEGO figures representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and Galileo are shown here aboard the Juno spacecraft.Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/KSC
In August 2011, NASA launched the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter from Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. aboard an Atlas V rocket. Affixed to Juno were three miniature LEGO figures, representing Jupiter, Juno, and Galileo. NASA and the LEGO Group hosted another “Build the Future” event at the launch of the Juno spacecraft.
In the spring of 2012, before NASA’s Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars on August 6, a NASA contractor submitted a design of the Curiosity rover through the precursor to the LEGO IDEAS website, LEGO CUUSOO. In a few short months, the Curiosity model received more than 10,000 votes from fans. Through a design license with JPL/Caltech, LEGO approved the model for limited production and sale. As part of the 2013 release of the kit, the LEGO Group collaborated with NASA’s Mars Public Engagement Program on the development of an additional booklet intended to inspire learners with educational and outreach content about the Curiosity rover and its mission to seek the environmental conditions necessary for life on Mars, if any ever existed.
The "Hydrogen-Powered Regional Airliner," overall winner in the "Inventing the Future of Flight" category, reduces noise, emissions, and fuel use.Image Credit: Composite by NASA/Jim Banke
NASA and the LEGO Group announced the "NASA's Missions: Imagine and Build" competition to spur students of all ages to use the toy bricks to build models of future airplanes and spacecraft. The competition selected winners in two categories: (1) “Inventing our Future of Flight” and (2) “Imagine our Future Beyond Earth.”
“Sunbeam,” grand prize winner in the "Imagining Our Future Beyond Earth" category, is a satellite designed to study the outer corona of the sun.Image Credit: Composite by NASA/Maria Werries
Winners were announced in September 2013.
The LEGO Group released its City Space Shuttle line and Denmark’s first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, arrived at the International Space Station carrying 26 LEGO figures specifically designed for his mission, as part of a collaboration between LEGO and the European Space Agency.
NASA and the LEGO Group collaborated on an online summer activity for kids, entitled “Mission to Space.” The activity included interesting facts, games, and videos related to the ISS, Jupiter, and Mars – the three in-space locations where LEGO bricks or mini-figures have traveled.
The LEGO Group released its NASA Apollo Saturn V set, an idea originally submitted by a LEGO IDEAS fan. The idea achieved 10,000 votes and was selected by LEGO for production. This set has 1,969 bricks, as a nod to the year the Saturn V rocket took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins to the Moon aboard Apollo 11. NASA assisted the LEGO Group to ensure accuracy of this Saturn V model.
Later that year, another LEGO IDEAS submission that garnered 10,000 votes in record time was produced by LEGO. The LEGO Women of NASA featured prominent women in NASA’s history, including Sally Ride, first female astronaut to travel to space, and Mae Jemison, first African American woman to fly to space, Margaret Hamilton, an Apollo software and Nancy Grace Roman, known by many inside and outside NASA as the “Mother of Hubble.”
LEGO CITY and LEGO CREATOR approached NASA with projects focusing on celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, as well as a line of space-themed sets inspired by NASA programs. NASA collaborated with LEGO CITY to provide access to information, images, facilities, and NASA careers, inspiring sets to help kids imagine a future in space through play. NASA also provided input to the LEGO Group during the design and planning phases of the LEGO CREATOR Apollo Lunar Lander set to assist with accuracy of the lander model.
NASA and the LEGO Group are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Apollo and NASA’s future Moon to Mars missions with NASA-inspired sets and related public engagement activities aimed at inspiring the next generation to continue to dream about traveling to the Moon and Mars.