Would you like to bring a piece of NASA hardware home to give to your kids? Me too!!! Stephen Pakbaz has been working on the next best thing, a Lego 1:20 scale model replica of the Mars Curiosity rover, currently on its way to the red planet aboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Stephen was formerly a mechanical engineer at Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) where he actually designed parts for Mars Curiosity.
Don’t rush to your local Lego store just yet though. Stephen is trying to gain support for his replica on the Lego CUUSOO site. Lego CUUSOO is a site where Lego creators can gather support for their designs in an effort to have their design produced for retail by Lego corporate. It’s an awesome site, filled with tons of incredibly cool designs. Stephen is just over half way to his goal of 10,000 backers, which is required for an official Lego review.
While Lego has a history of producing semi-accurate scientific space vehicles, such as the LEGO Shuttle Expedition and LEGO Space Center, they have no immediate plans to produce Stephen’s model. I would love to see a NASA vehicle scale replica line. Stephen’s Mars Curiosity would be a great way to start this line of products. Recently Stephen was invited to put his model on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the NASM Space Day 2012, along with a number of other Lego model builders. Stephen’s replica is different from the current space series produced by Lego, because it is accurate. This model has a fully articulated arm, deployable mast, and a working rocker-bogie suspension system that allows the rover to keep all six wheels on the round and climb over rocks twice the height of its wheels. Its wheels can go over obstacles just like its namesake. Stephen has recently added the Powered Descent module to his rover design, essentially a giant jet-pack that controls the descent from orbit to surface. The combination of this module to the original rover is an awesome way to illustrate the descent, landing and exploration techniques of the Mars Curiosity mission.
Would you buy scientifically accurate (as close as Lego can make it) models? What would you pay for those models? Would you want them to be NASA branded? As for me, most definitely, YES! I’d love to be able to build each of the vehicles with my two boys, and explain what certain parts are for and what about their design makes them special. I also know that we would make shelves in our house to display all of the scientific Lego models, because we are geeks like that.
Take a few minutes to go and add your support to Stephen’s design at Lego CUUSOO. I challenge all of you to help him meet his goal by the time Mars Curiosity lands on the surface of Mars on or about August 6, 2012.