Price: £84.99 / $99.99 / €89.99 Pieces: 1087 Available: Now
The moon landing was a monumental human achievement. Mankind put one of our species on the moon with technology that was less advanced than the digital devices fans are reading this review on. Less than 70 years after the invention of the aeroplane, man had conquered the heavens. There may never have been a more lofty source material from which the LEGO Group has drawn – were the designers able to do it justice?
LEGO Creator Expert 10266 NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander is the third set based on the machine, with the first – 565 Moon Landing – predating the minifigure and cast in plain, blockly blue, while the second – 10029 Lunar Lander – was part of the Discovery theme from the early 2000s. Both of those designs have been outdone by orders of magnitude. Thanks to a set of reflective stickers, pearl gold tiles, some ingenious building techniques and a piece count in excess of 1,000, the designers had all they needed to execute a model that is so accurate it almost doesn’t feel like LEGO pieces.
This is a set which seems to primarily be intended as a display piece and a huge part of its appeal in this regard is the base on which it is built. Light grey plates representing the undisturbed lunar surface have been covered almost entirely by dark grey plates, tiles and slopes laid out to depict craters and texture. These dual layers allow for light grey to be exposed where the surface has been disturbed which, in the set’s most delightful detail, re-creates those famous first footprints resulting from “one small step for man”. The orientation of the lander is set so that these steps line up with the descent ladder, with a sticker of the plaque left on moon placed in the same location. An American flag, like that planted during the mission, rounds out the first steps scene. That attention to detail is what makes 10266 stand out as something truly special.
Just like the actual Lunar Lander, the set can split into its two components, the lander and return module with rocket. The light grey cabin and engine are held in place by two sets of clips and can be easily detached without compromising clutch power when connected. Between the terrain and the lander being able to both lift off the baseplate and split into its component halves, there is some play value for those wishing to re-enact the famous event or portray their own adventures. However, such play is definitely a secondary purpose as 10266 seems to have been intended to sit on the edge of a desk or a mantle piece commemorating the moon landing. Unless your child really wants to play a specific story a bunch of times, it would probably be best to steer them to one of the City Space sets that are also currently available.
Where the Lunar Lander stands out from being just of interest to space enthusiasts is the construction techniques used to create it. There are some unique angles required by the source material and seeing how they are achieved is a lesson in clever building that even the most seasoned fans will be able to learn something from. The way the eight sided base of the lander was captured stands out as a highlight. Only slightly less impressive is the way in which the cabin walls were joined using placement of recessed clips and bars.
10266 is notable also as a near perfect example of how to use stickers correctly. There are many fans who prefer printed over stickered elements, but that really would not have been an option here. The real world Lunar Module was highly reflective due to thin metal sheeting being used to keep weight down. That almost tinfoil like quality is mimicked thanks to reflective stickers. Stickers also depict the flag, plaque behind the ladder and United States panel – all of which are vital to capturing the look and feel of the real vehicle. The execution is perfect. These, paired with the minifigures that look like they are straight out of the now classic film Apollo 13, really sell this as coming straight out of the NASA Space Program.
Fans of the Apollo Program or NASA, as well as those who have fond memories of being alive at the time of the Apollo missions, will be thoroughly delighted by the LEGO Group’s commemorative model. Likewise, fans of quality LEGO sets or those looking to learn high level techniques will find a lot to love in this set. The life of these commemorative products is somewhat unpredictable so our recommendation is that you pick yours up as soon as possible – especially considering the fantastic patch freebie currently included.
This product was provided for review by the LEGO Group.