In 1978, Lego launched the first sets in its line of space toys, almost a decade after the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon for the first time.
Since then, the company has consistently released sets featuring spaceships, astronauts and lunar bases, including detailed sets that draw on the hardware from real space missions.
The Verge spoke with Lego designer Simon Kent recently, who explained that he and his colleagues recently visited with NASA engineers and personnel to compare their toys against the real spaceships, rovers, and space stations currently in operation today.
“Across the company, space is such a big theme, that we can tap into it in many different ways, whether its a plaything like Lego City, or a display model that goes into the fine details of the spacecraft’s design,” like the recently-released Apollo 11 Lunar Lander.
He noted that over the last four decades, Lego has explored many corners of the universe, from more fantastical sets about aliens, space police, or martian colonists, to more some of the more realistic sets that he and his team are responsible for with the company’s Lego City sets.
One such example appears on the Deep Space Rocket and Launch Control set: they included a small vehicle with four, independent wheels, inspired by an experimental rover, and after learning that white paint adds a lot of weight to a rocket, opted to change the color to orange to show that it’s unpainted.
Kent said that when they visited Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center, “nearly all of them had Lego space stuff on their desks,” and that many were inspired by the toys they played with as kids.