It doesn’t seem like five minutes since the LEGO Group first launched three minifigures up into space, but it’s actually been five years. Today, the aluminium trio of Galileo Galilei and Roman gods Jupiter and Juno are set to arrive at their destination – the orbit of the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter.
Well, if you’re in the USA, that is, where the deep-space probe Juno will fire its main engine and begin its orbit at 8:18 p.m PDT. For those of us in the UK, that’s 3:18 a.m. tomorrow morning, but it seems apt that the NASA-launched mission should arrive on Independence Day for those stateside.
The minifigures were sent up in 2011 as part of the LEGO Bricks in Space project, intended to “inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” according to the original press release.
In real terms, that means raising awareness for Juno’s mission beyond core space enthusiasts. The endgame of the craft is to determine Jupiter’s origins, evolution and atmosphere during its 33 rotations around the Jovian planet (equivalent to one earth year).
The LEGO Group explained the choice of minifigures back in 2011:
“Juno holds a magnifying glass to signify her search for the truth, while her husband holds a lightning bolt. The third LEGO crew member is Galileo Galilei, who made several important discoveries about Jupiter. He used a telescope to confirm the phases of Venus and discovered the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honour). Of course, the minifigure Galileo has his telescope with him on the journey.”
For those hoping to get a glimpse of the minifigures upon their return, you’re out of luck: once Juno’s mission is complete, it will sail down to the planet’s surface and crash, aluminium passengers and all. That’s one giant leap for LEGO-kind.