Lego’s original spacecraft, the Galaxy Explorer, is back and better than ever

Last January, Lego promised that its 90th anniversary would be one to remember: The company revived one of its classic Lego themes (like Space, Castle and Pirates) with a new, adult-grade Lego set. agreed to do.

But it turns out we’re not getting just a nostalgia bomb today—the company has decided to bring back the classic space and the classic castle at the same time. First, Lego is revealing the Galaxy Explorer, a $100 upgraded version of the original iconic Lego spaceship that will go up for pre-order today. And second, it’s announcing the Lion Knights Castle, which — at $400 and 4,514 pieces — is the company’s most complex and impressive castle play to date.

For more on LEGO’s new castle instead, tap here,

For the past few days, I’ve been putting together high-resolution photos of each set, which you’ll find below, marveling at the details and hidden play features. But I didn’t need to do it myself: I loved their lead designers Mike Ciaki (see also: Titanic, Saturn V, A007’s Aston Martin DB5) and Milan Madge (Space Shuttle Discovery, Pirates of Barracuda Bay, Central Perk). I also got to talk to Niels Milne Pedersen, a 44-year veteran who co-created Lego Pirates and Forestman, worked on several classic space themes, and designed many of the most iconic forts, castles, and ships, including the Black Knight’s Castle. Royal Knights Castle I was lucky enough to have as a kid, and the legendary Black Seas Barracuda.

The original 1979 Galaxy Explorer set is very studded and angular and relatively flat.

Original 1979 Galaxy Explorer set.
Photo: Back of the Box Build

With Galaxy Explorer, Psyche says, the goal was to trigger nostalgia by making you ship Thinking Mind you – not the one that actually existed. Most people have only seen photos of the original 1979 set, and even the children who held it are no longer children. Here’s what he told me:

We’ve noticed that adults usually remember the Lego kits of their childhood to be a lot more impressive and immersive than they actually are — and our big bet we’re taking with this model is the hypothesis. What we came up with is about how big they are. So like when you’re a kid, you’re very young. Now, you are just physically bigger and take up more space. Looking at the same set through the eyes of an adult, it doesn’t give as much command to your field of view, essentially, does it?

How big though? When Saiaki realized he was 50 percent taller than his seven-year-old son, he became the reference point. The new 1,246-piece Galaxy Explorer is about 50 percent larger in every dimension — “the engines that are two modules around, we make them three modules, the width of the wings gets wider, the thickness of the plate,” and there’s little more designers can do. are spread.

As you can see, the Galaxy Explorer’s airframe has some height Until now—in 1979, it was constructed largely from thin, flat gray plates. The new one is also 20.5 inches, or 52 centimeters tall.

In the end, the Galaxy Explorer mostly became an improved version of the original, “so we’re almost imagining it as if we’re looking at the Galaxy Explorer with a high-definition camera.” They kept it edgy and angular, and with some new edgy arched pieces as much as they could manage. I think it looks incredible, especially with the pictures of the original as well.

see robots? It originally appeared in Lego 6809, and has no name. “Internally we like to joke that it’s Cosmobot because it’s definitely not Astromech. If you come up with a great name, we’ll consider making that canon.”
Photo: Lego

Another photo of the original Galaxy Explorer.
Photo: Andrew Gould (Wikimedia Commons)

But interestingly, this was not always going to be the case. “We basically went down this route in, well, how do we modernize Galaxy Explorer,” Psiaki says. “How exactly would it function as a spacecraft?” But that approach was abandoned when he found himself essentially building another Space Shuttle Discovery, and he threw away modern designs for astronauts as well.

Benny, the astronaut from The Lego Movie, with his orthodox broken helmet.

But the team at Psyche found some places to modernize the set where it seemed thematically appropriate. Some of the original printed Lego computer bricks are back – but now as flat tiles instead of sloped monitors, allowing them to look less like a CRT and fit more of them into the cockpit. Not only do you get the classic Lego Space helmet, but a new version with a thicker chin strap that’s less likely to break. “That was a joke the LEGO movieWhere Benny has a molded helmet with the broken thing on, because that’s how everyone remembers that helmet,” Psiaki relates.

Psiaki says the Classic helmet lets Lego fit four minifigs in the cockpit, which didn’t quite work with the modernization they tested.
Image: Lego

See: Lego computer tiles, landing gear mechanism, and a ramp for the rover.
Photo: Lego

And where the original had only a few stationary detachable columns to serve as landing gear, you can flip the new set’s landing gear directly into the frame. “I loved vehicles where you could fold down all the landing gear; I remember being really frustrated like the first Lego Millennium Falcon that the struts were all connected. Like, come on, they’re gonna fold!” Please, Lego, let him work on the Ultimate Millennium Falcon where they actually do.

Like the original, there’s a hidden garage inside for the rover. “I don’t want to spoil how it works, but it does have a little play feature where you exit the ramp and then you drop it and the rover…” he retorts.
Image: Lego

Not every part of the classic Galaxy Explorer made the cut: The original one came with a landing pad – you can see a thematic nod to it in the photo below, as well as a pair of alternate builds, but it Not clear if they are official parts of the set. And while the new cockpit does fit four minifigs at once, it doesn’t quite have the retro feel of the original’s flat-top lifter.

Flanking the new set, some… alternate builds, perhaps?
Image: Lego

One last image of the new Galaxy Explorer. Blow it up to see inside the cockpit and command center.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask Galaxy Explorer’s original designer what he thought of the new creation: Jens Nygaard Knudsen, who created Lego Space and designed the original Lego minifigure, in 2020 at age 78 died. But his longtime collaborator Niels Milne Pedersen says he sees Jens’ personality shining through — and if you’d like to learn more about Jens and Niels’ work, including prototype sets on Lego space, I’d recommend this one by them. Highly recommend the profile (PDF). Collaborator Mark Stafford.

When it comes to those early days of Lego space, Pedersen remembers most guns were—or lack thereof. Back then, the designers had to pretend they were adding antennas to the spacecraft: “We weren’t allowed to build anything like any sort of weapons, even though Jens fully realized that the kids were giving them laser guns.” will be used as Pedersen carved many, many iconic Lego parts over the years, but his first was the space camera. “Most people call it the Space Bazooka. We’re not allowed to call it that, that’s for sure!” He says with a laugh.

The new Galaxy Explorer should be available for pre-order today on for $99.99, £89.99, or €99.99 and should go on sale August 1. I will buy one.

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