This Friday, NASA will launch an Atlas V rocket that will be contain a very special payload. Not only will the rocket be carrying Juno, a space probe that is being sent to Jupiter to study the fifth planet from the Sun, but there will be a few unique stowaways. Thanks to a joint mission between NASA and Lego, there will be three very special Lego minifigs affixed to the spacecraft.
The figures, milled from aluminum, will accompany Juno on its five-year trip to Jupiter. When Juno arrives in 2016, the Lego likeness of the Roman god, Jupiter, his sister, Juno, and the Italian astronomer, Galileo, will be there to take in all the sights and bask in the immensity of the largest planet.
This (until now) secret installation was initiated by NASA scientists, who love Lego as much as anyone and wanted to do something memorable for this mission. They approached Lego and the company loved the idea. It saw the project as a way to promote children’s education and STEM programs.
The brick company even underwrote the project, at a cost of $5,000 for each of the minifigs, which will soon become the farthest flying toys ever. The manufacture of the figures was a deliberate process to ensure the figures would not interfere with NASA’s sensitive measurements.
Each figure has been customized to represent his or her special characteristics. Jupiter carries a lightning bolt, Juno has a magnifying glass to represent her search for truth, Galileo is carrying a telescope and a model of the planet Jupiter.
The minifigs attached to the space probe are the same size as the plastic figures in your box of Lego at home.
Upon arrival in July 2016, the space probe will collect data on Jupiter, its moons and atmosphere. After orbiting the planet for a year (about 33 orbits) and relaying its data, Juno will purposefully de-orbit and crash into the planet’s surface. You can track Juno’s progress with the high-flying minifigs at LegoSpace.com.
This unique project has put a smile on many NASA and Lego employees’ faces and stirred up interest from other state space agencies, as well. Will Lego minifigs take another trip in space soon? Time will tell. But until that day, keep an eye on the sky for the fastest moving toys in the universe.
See more images after the break.
Photos courtesy The Lego Group.