Skip to content

Blast Off with the Best LEGO Space Sets of All Time

Since their introduction over four decades ago, LEGO Space sets have been captivating the imaginations of builders around the world. From the earliest simplistic rockets to modern masterpieces of engineering, these cosmic creations represent some of the most iconic and beloved sets in LEGO history.

The Origins of LEGO Space

The story of LEGO Space began in 1978 with the release of set 462: the Space Rocket. It was a humble beginning, consisting of just 36 pieces that could be assembled into a small rocket with two astronaut minifigures. But this simple set launched something big – it marked the first time LEGO had ventured into space as a theme.

Over the next few years, LEGO expanded on this concept with more advanced spaceships, rovers, and moonbases. Classic subthemes like Space Police and Blacktron introduced narrative elements with fun robot and alien minifigures. According to Bricklink, a whopping 135 Space sets were released in the 1980s alone, firmly establishing the theme as a staple of the LEGO lineup.

Soaring into the Modern Era

As LEGO entered the new millennium, Space sets became more sophisticated in both design and functionality. Advancements in molding techniques allowed for more complex pieces and realistic detailing. Digital design tools empowered the LEGO creative team to push boundaries like never before.

Nowhere is this evolution more apparent than in the NASA-inspired sets released in recent years. Take the NASA Apollo Saturn V, for instance. Released in 2017 as part of the LEGO Ideas line, this towering 1:110 scale rocket contains 1,969 pieces (commemorating the year of the moon landing). Its level of detail is staggering, from the brick-built USA lettering to the removable rocket stages that allow you to reenact the mission.

Other NASA collaborations have been equally impressive:

Set Name Set Number Release Year Piece Count
NASA Space Shuttle Discovery 10283 2021 2,354
Apollo 11 Lunar Lander 10266 2019 1,087
International Space Station 21321 2020 864
NASA Mars Rover 10029 2003 858

The NASA Space Shuttle Discovery deserves special mention for its incredible attention to detail. The payload bay doors open to deploy a brick-built Hubble Space Telescope, complete with movable solar arrays and an aperture door. The shuttle itself features working landing gear, a robotic arm, and even a detailed flight deck with seating for five minifigure astronauts.

Beyond the NASA sets, LEGO has continued to innovate with its own original Space designs. 2023‘s Galaxy Explorer pays homage to a classic 1979 set while infusing it with modern building techniques and features. This 1,246-piece behemoth includes a sizable spaceship with detachable cockpit, rover, robot assistant, and four astronaut minifigures.

The STEM Appeal

One of the greatest strengths of LEGO Space sets is their educational value. They don‘t just provide engaging builds – they actually teach STEM concepts in a hands-on way. Assembling a complex model like the Saturn V rocket gives builders a fundamental understanding of rocket staging and engineering. The Hubble Space Telescope model introduces optics and satellite technology.

Even the more fantastical sets encourage critical thinking and problem solving skills. Sets like the Space Rover Explorer challenge kids to design vehicles equipped to handle the harsh conditions of alien worlds. In doing so, they intuitively learn about mechanics, energy systems, and more.

This STEM appeal has made LEGO Space a favorite of educators and parents alike. Many schools have incorporated LEGO into their science and technology curriculums. LEGO themselves have leaned into this with the LEGO Education program, which provides Space-themed sets and lesson plans specifically designed for classroom use.

Digital Dimensions

While physical bricks remain the core of the LEGO experience, the company has also expanded into the digital realm in exciting ways. Several video games have allowed fans to explore the LEGO Space universe in greater depth:

  • LEGO Space (1999) – A classic PC game featuring a customizable astronaut navigating puzzling planets
  • LEGO Universe (2010) – A short-lived but beloved MMO that included Space-themed worlds and quests
  • LEGO Worlds (2017) – A Minecraft-like game with a DLC pack adding classic Space sets and characters

In addition to full-fledged games, LEGO has experimented with augmented reality (AR) experiences to enhance physical sets. The Hidden Side theme, while not strictly Space-related, showed the potential for AR to add new dimensions of play to traditional sets. Many fans are hopeful that similar tech could be applied to future Space releases, allowing for interactive missions and discoveries.

Community Orbit

No discussion of LEGO Space would be complete without acknowledging the vibrant fan community that has grown around it. From online forums to brick conventions, Space enthusiasts have found many ways to connect and share their passion.

One of the most impressive examples is Neo-Classic Space, a fan-driven initiative celebrating the classic Space aesthetic. Participants create their own original Space designs using modern parts in the classic blue and gray color scheme. The resulting MOCs (My Own Creations) are a testament to the enduring appeal and versatility of the theme.

Other popular community activities include:

  • Collaborating on massive, convention-spanning Space layouts
  • Designing and 3D printing custom Space minifigures and accessories
  • Creating photo comics and stop-motion videos starring Space characters
  • Designing and submitting Space-themed sets to the LEGO Ideas platform

This fan engagement is a big part of what has kept LEGO Space vibrant and relevant for over 40 years. It‘s a symbiotic relationship – the sets inspire the fans, and the fans in turn inspire LEGO with their boundless creativity and enthusiasm.

Exploring the Future

So what does the future hold for LEGO Space? If the past is any indication, we can expect LEGO to continue pushing the boundaries of what‘s possible with the theme. Some exciting prospects:

  • More sets based on current and upcoming NASA missions, like the Artemis program
  • Increased integration of motorized and programmable elements for added functionality
  • AR-enhanced sets that allow for interactive play and learning experiences
  • Sets designed in collaboration with the fan community through platforms like LEGO Ideas

Regardless of the specifics, one thing is certain: LEGO Space will continue to inspire and educate generations to come. These sets are more than just toys – they are gateways to curiosity, creativity, and discovery. They invite us to imagine the impossible and then give us the tools to build it.

In a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, that‘s a valuable gift indeed. With each new set, LEGO Space reaffirms the power of play to push boundaries and stretch minds. It‘s no exaggeration to say these sets have launched countless real-world STEM careers. Who knows what wonders the space-dreamers of today might achieve with a pile of bricks and a spark of inspiration?

So whether you‘re a wide-eyed child assembling your first rocket or a seasoned enthusiast crafting a cosmos of your own, LEGO Space invites you to join the crew of intrepid explorers. The universe of imagination is waiting – and with LEGO, you have all you need to reach for the stars.