The world's first spacecraft to collect samples from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth, Japan's Hayabusa mission probe, is now available as a LEGO toy thanks to a homemade model and its thousands of fans.
The Denmark-based LEGO Group announced today (March 2) that its Hayabusa 369-piece building set
is now on sale in Japan. A limited number of the sets will be made
available worldwide exclusively through LEGO's online store at a date to
be decided for later this year. The model retails for $49.
The LEGO asteroid probe began as a fan-made model that was then posted
to the LEGO CUUSOO website. Originally limited to Japan, LEGO CUUSOO
allows fans of LEGO to share their ideas for new products and to collect
votes to make those ideas become a reality. The site went global last
Hayabusa, which is only the second CUUSOO model to be made into a LEGO
toy set, was built by Daisuke Okubo. After receiving more than 1,000
votes from other fans on the website, Okubo's proposed model was then
refined by LEGO designer Melody Louise Caddick for its commercial
release. [Gallery: LEGO Hayabusa Asteroid Probe]
"I was interested in the asteroid explorer Hayabusa
first from a technological perspective but then also by the fact that
Japan had achieved a world first with this mission," Okubo said in a
note included with the model's building instructions. "I hope the
Hayabusa story will reach an even greater number of people now."
Okubo's Hayabusa recreated in LEGO many of the real spacecraft's
details. The set includes the sampler horn, which guided particles from
the asteroid's surface into the main body of the probe; the ion engine
that propelled Hayabusa through space; and the sample return capsule,
the only part that returned to Earth. Not all the spacecraft's features
were possible, though.
"Trying to recreate a real-life object such as the Hayabusa spacecraft in LEGO
bricks can also be difficult," Caddick writes in the building guide,
which also gives information about the real mission. "For example, with
the elements we have available, it was not possible to make the solar
panels fold together and then fold down at the sides. We also needed to
ensure stability so that when you build the model, it will maintain its
shape as much as possible."
One detail that is included with the model was crucial to the Hayabusa mission's success. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi is included with the toy as a LEGO Minifigure.
Clad in a blue pinstripe suit and yellow tie, the miniature Kawaguchi
features two faces: an everything-is-going-well-with-the-mission happy
face, as well as a more disturbed look for the high-tension moments that
came during Hayabusa's mission.
Asteroid mission and model
The real Hayabusa launched in May 2003 and reached asteroid Itokawa
two years later. First orbiting the small near-Earth asteroid, Hayabusa
collected data about the shape, spin, topography, color, composition,
density and history of the rocky planetoid. In November 2005, it landed
on Itokawa and collected samples in the form of tiny grains of asteroid
material, which were returned to Earth aboard the spacecraft in June
The LEGO Hayabusa model is the second CUUSOO model to be produced out
of the three chosen to date. The first, the Shinkai 6500 submarine, went
on sale in Japan in February 2011. A set based on the computer game
Minecraft is the first user-sponsored project to be approved on the
global version of LEGO CUUSOO.
In its current version, ideas shared on the CUUSOO website supported by
10,000 votes are examined by a LEGO jury to ensure the models meet the
company's standards of safety and playability and support the LEGO
brand. Consumers who have their ideas chosen for production earn one
percent of the total net sales of the product.
|Liveleak on Facebook|