New Lego Technic Mars Crew Exploration Rover is sci-fi but built with NASA’s help

Lego and NASA have a protracted historical past of collaborating, however a lately launched constructing set launched the partnership in a brand new course — each for the toy firm and the area company.

The brand new Mars Crew Exploration Rover, which went on sale earlier this month, is in contrast to any area automobile that Lego — or NASA — has ever constructed. For Lego, it was the primary time that its Technic line of superior working fashions centered on a fictional area automobile. Equally, this was the primary time NASA engineers suggested on a Lego toy that was not indirectly primarily based on any of the company’s plans or spacecraft.

“This was very refreshing for all of us, as a result of we have been designing with extra freedom,” stated Aurélien Rouffiange, the design supervisor who led the creation of the Lego Technic Mars Crew Exploration Rover, in a presentation to fan media and content material creators.

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Constructed from 1,599 items, the Lego Technic Mars Crew Exploration Rover options the brand new colours for Lego items, together with grey tires and a vibrant orange that’s distinctive to the Mars-themed units. (Picture credit score: Lego)

Though the rover is fictional and set sooner or later, Lego nonetheless wished to maintain it practical somewhat than go full sci-fi, which is the place NASA’s enter was wanted.

“If you look this automobile, we wish to you to say, ‘Okay, that may occur.’ That’s the place we wished to set the restrict,” stated Rouffiange. “So after a [little] brainstorming, which I used to be very fortunate to be a part of — I imply, it is not every single day that you simply get to speak with a NASA engineer — we got here up with this idea.”

The Mars Crew Exploration Rover is a six-wheel, two-seat cellular transport that options an increasing truck mattress, working suspension, a working crane, dwelling quarters and a slew of scientific gear and logistics canisters. The $149.99 Technic set consists of 1,599 items and, as described on the entrance of its packaging, is “impressed by NASA Mars rover ideas.”

“It’s sort of a campervan for area,” stated Rouffiange. “There may be area for 2 crew members. You may open it and there’s a entire dwelling area inside. So you may have a treadmill and bathe … all that astronauts must survive on the planet. After which on the again, there are a great deal of cans for findings.”

And “hundreds” shouldn’t be exaggerating. There are totally different containers for the crew’s trash, Mars rocks and science samples, water, oxygen and hydrogen. As well as, the rover carries its personal deployable gas cell generator, with which to recharge its batteries.

“We all know that hydrogen might be a giant a part of our future, and we wish to educate the youngsters — and also you — the way it works,” he stated.

The Lego Technic Mars Crew Exploration Rover has a chassis that folds in on itself, shortening the automobile’s size to suit inside a rocket’s fairing. (Picture credit score: Lego)

Along with its working crane for on- and off-loading gear, the rear of the rover additionally has a carry.

“One of many first issues the individuals from NASA advised me is that, as soon as of their spacesuits, [the astronauts] cannot bounce off the rover. They can not run or do issues like that. In order that they want one thing to get off this automobile, so I inbuilt an elevator,” Rouffiange stated.

One other consideration was the automobile’s wheels. The rover options the identical kind of “rocker-bogie” suspension that may be discovered immediately on NASA’s rovers Curiosity and Perseverance, permitting them to extra simply traverse uneven terrain and roll over small boulders. However Lego has historically modeled its wheels in black, so it was one thing of a giant ask when Rouffiange sought to provide the rover’s tires in one other shade.

“On the first assembly we had with NASA, I requested ‘Can we use rubber in area?’ And with such a variation of temperature, you may’t, as a result of the tires would explode or one thing dangerous like that will occur, and it is not nice to vary tires in area. In order that’s why they go along with a metallic coating, for extra traction and stuff like that,” stated Rouffiange. “One of the best outcome for us was to vary the tires to grey to make them seem like they have been steel.”

The Mars Crew Exploration Rover is considered one of three new space-themed, fictional automobiles launched as a part of the Lego Technic line. The opposite two — the Floor Area Loader and VTOL Heavy Cargo Spaceship — are set farther off into the long run and so have been designed with out NASA’s enter. The three automobiles do share a typical livery, although, with the grey wheels additionally a part of the area loader and all three introducing a brand new vibrant orange that’s new to Lego with these units.

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Following NASA’s recommendation, Lego designers outfitted the Mars Crew Exploration Rover with a bathe, galley and a should, a bathroom. (Picture credit score: Lego)

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