Review: LEGO Ideas 21312 Women of NASA


lluisgib - Posted on 30 October 2017

Review by Adrian Barbour

 

Parts Count: 231

Release Date:  Nov 1st

Price:  US$24.99

Contains:  4 minifigs

The latest LEGO Ideas offering is now hitting the shelves, and follows in the footsteps of 2014’s popular 21110 Research Institute ­– being similar in both theme and content, consisting of a selection of minifigures with accompanying vignettes. LEGO has had great success with the wide appeal of NASA-themed sets in the past, though the Women of NASA set was somewhat controversial when first announced, with its exclusive focus on a single gender (albeit one which has long been underrepresented in LEGO form) and its focus on minifigures rather than a single substantial model build. So, has this turned out to be a glorified politically correct minifig pack, or does it hold up to the high standards set by previous LEGO Ideas releases? Time to find out!

 

The Minifigures

The heart of this set is of course the figures, as the set celebrates the achievement of women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and more specifically of four women of NASA who have made extraordinary contributions to space exploration. The original fan submission by Maia Weinstock featured a fifth figure, but for reasons which remain her own Katherine Johnson (featured in the movie Hidden Figures) chose not to be represented in the set. The included figures represent Margaret Hamilton (computer scientist), Mae Jemison (astronaut, engineer, and physician), Sally Ride (astronaut and physicist), and Nancy Grace Roman (astronomer).

 

These four women are depicted on the rear box art next to their minifigure incarnations, and also receive a page each in the instruction booklet with information on their roles at NASA, along with details from fan designer Maia Weinstock and the LEGO designers responsible for developing the fan submission into a mass-produced model.

 

 

The figures themselves are nicely detailed, presenting accurate likenesses of the women they represent. Each has a torso printed front and back, as well as a double-sided head print with an alternate face (choose between happy and focused determination!). Hamilton features a printed skirt and shoes on her legs (a first to my knowledge), while Jemison and Ride feature very nicely detailed space/flight suits – Jemison’s is generic while Ride’s has her name badge on the front. The only drawback here is that all four torso prints are distinctly female, with three of them having narrowed waist printing, thereby limiting their reusability as parts.

 

The Shuttle

For me, the undeniable star of the set is the mini Space Shuttle build. This is mounted on a display base and serves as the backdrop for the two astronaut figures, Jemison and Ride. The display base itself improves upon the original fan submission by incorporating printed name plates into a built-up base, using 1x2 up-brackets on 3x4 modified four-stud tiles (88646) to achieve this, while the shuttle itself attaches to a 2x2x2 support stand.

The shuttle is also a significant improvement on the original fan submission, with a curved fuselage, rounded nose, and Technic connectors forming the detachable solid rocket boosters either side of the (also detachable) central external tank. The shuttle does have a somewhat chibi appearance, especially from theside, but is nonetheless a great rendition of this iconic vehicle. My only gripes are that an internal red 2x2 plate, as well as the red 2L axles in the SRBs, remain visible on the finished model. A white plate and black axles would have easily avoided this issue. I also question the use of the two 2x2 curved-top bricks (30165) for the shuttle’s spine, as two 1x4 curved-top bricks (6191) would have given a cleaner studless finish while also representing the seam where the real shuttle’s cargo bay opens.

The Hubble Space Telescope

While the shuttle may be the most eye-catching part of the set, the mini Hubble model is even more impressive and accurate. Attached to another display base via click hinge allowing for some pose-ability, and next to a printed image of the Cone Nebula on a black 1x4x3 panel, the Hubble is a very detailed and surprisingly accurate build. Based on a garbage can and a wheel hub, it features printed 1x4 tile solar panels, a communication antenna (using new bar part 32828), and an adjustable (though not fully closable) aperture door. Be careful with the solar panels though, as it would be easy to scratch the printing when attaching them via the bar clips.

The Cone Nebula image next to the Hubble and placed behind the Nancy Roman figure is a very nice print, even if it does look a lot like a woman in profile with wild red hair and a glowing brain!

The Other One…

Margaret Hamilton was responsible for the monumental task of programming the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo moon-landing program. Here, as in the original  fan submission, she is represented standing next to a coat stand and a massive stack of books.

This vignette is a faithful and accurate representation of an iconic photograph depicting the colossal amount of coding which had to be written at a time when computer programming was still in its infancy. Yet however faithful, in LEGO form it is still just a minifigure next to a stack of 2x2 jumper plates. To be fair, a printed 2x3 tile blackboard is included, along with the aforementioned coat stand, and the rear wall is cleverly mounted with clips and bars (even if the clips are again red and visible from the front). But I can’t help wonder if choosing a different photograph/scene to represent might not have made for a more visually stimulating vignette. For instance, her Wikipedia page also features a photograph of Hamilton reclining inside the Apollo Command Module working on the systems she helped program. Still, this third model does adequately complement the other two in the set.

 

Bottom Line

So… is it worth it? Absolutely! The more substantial display bases and more detailed Shuttle and Hubble models definitely elevate this from what might have been little more than a ‘battle pack’ of historically important figures into a gorgeous display set, true to the original fan submission, and which any NASA enthusiast or Lego builder can be proud to own. While the three vignettes may not all be of equal appeal, and while some bright red parts refuse to remain hidden, the figures are nicely detailed and faithfully accurate, and the Shuttle and Hubble builds alone are worth the very reasonable price tag. The set also includes some very useful parts, such as several 1x2 up-brackets, two of the new 1L bar w/ 1x1 round plate (32828), and those printed 1x4 solar panels. So that’s a thumbs up from me, and hopefully supply will keep up with demand and you’ll be able to pick one for yourself very soon.

 

The LEGO Group sent HispaBrick Magazine an early copy of this set for review. The opinions expressed here are solely the opinions of the reviewer and do not represent those of t