LEGO and NASA aren’t exactly strange bedfellows: in fact, the two organisations go all the way back to the 1990s, with the advent of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition. More recently, they’ve partnered on official LEGO sets including 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V, 10266 NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander and an entire wave of CITY products.
It was pretty much inevitable that any future 18+ space shuttle set would carry official NASA branding, then, in direct opposition to the LEGO Group’s last Creator Expert-themed entry into the stable of real-world spacecraft, 10213 Shuttle Adventure (and later, following an unprecedented mid-cycle redesign, 10231 Shuttle Expedition).
So comes 10283 NASA Space Shuttle Discovery, a firmly adult-targeted set that celebrates the eponymous craft’s successful 1990 mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope in the Earth’s orbit. You can read more about the specifics behind the set’s release here, or check out the full gallery of images here.
If you’re just after the nitty-gritty of how this model recreates two icons of modern space travel, research and exploration, though, keep reading.
Space Shuttle Discovery: the exterior
Pop an image of the new LEGO set next to a picture of the real-life Space Shuttle Discovery, and it doesn’t take an aerospace engineering degree to spot the external similarities. You might be surprised just how closely 10283 NASA Space Shuttle Discovery mimics its source material, however – right down to the reflective stickers that match the real vehicle’s cooling radiators.
There’s also fully-functional landing gear, a pair of payload doors that open in sequence, and the requisite silhouette of three primary engines, along with two smaller engines designed to assist in mid-orbit manoeuvres and re-entry into the atmosphere. The wings and tail also sport the flight control surfaces necessary to control the craft’s roll, pitch and yaw, while the rudder acts as a brake to aid in landing the shuttle.
Space Shuttle Discovery: the interior
There’s a fairly detailed interior, too – the inclusion of which posed significant challenges for the set’s designer, Milan Madge. That’s predominantly thanks to the need to make room for the Hubble Space Telescope in the shuttle’s payload bay, without compromising the structural integrity of the wider vehicle.
We’ll have to wait to get our hands on the set to find out how successful Milan was at retaining that stability, but the interior looks pretty impressive from the official images: the upper flight deck features all five seats for the crew cabin, along with control panels for flying the ship and controlling the Remote Manipulator System (RMS) robotic arm; the mid-deck contains storage lockers and an airlock; and the payload bay is packed with a Ku-band communications antenna, cameras for monitoring bay activity; and the RMS arm, ready to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble Space Telescope
If you’ve put together 10266 NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander or 21321 International Space Station, you’ll know that the LEGO Group is a dab hand at recreating complicated technical instruments in bricks. The same looks to be true of the Hubble Space Telescope, which boasts accurate features including the real-life device’s hinged mirror housing and gold foil solar arrays.
It also makes great use of the company’s metallic silver colourway, and can indeed be stowed away inside the Space Shuttle Discovery’s payload bay – or, if you prefer, displayed either attached to the RMS arm or even separately, with two individual informational plaques included in the box.