Tag Archives: LEGO

Two Past Visions of the Future


Two things this week made me think about the how people in the past looked at the future, particularly regarding space exploration. The first was a movie, and the second was an article on Brickset.com’s site about certain space LEGO kits from the past.

The movie, Forbidden Planet, is one of my favorite movies. It was my favorite movie when I first watched it at the age of 12, and has been since. My appreciation of this movie is so high and obvious, my wife gifted me with the DVD anniversary edition of the movie many years ago. We watched it again last night.

It had been a long time since I last watched the show, and I must admit before watching it last night, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it as much as I had before. Thankfully, my appreciation of the story and special effects in the movie have not diminished, but grown. There are some issues, such as the men’s treatment of the female character, Altaira, but on the whole, it’s story still holds up.

I won’t get into the story itself, which is fun and thought-provoking. I just don’t think my description actually will ever be able to do Forbidden Planet’s storyline any kind of justice. I will say the story involves a ship’s captain (any “Airplane!” and “Naked Gun” aficionados might appreciate him), a mysterious professor, an awesome robot, an alien planet, a beautiful woman, and a deadly monster. You could read summaries about the movie on various sites, but most won’t give readers an accurate “feel” of the story either.

I do urge you to watch it–the movie’s special effects, art, costumes, and models come together as an interesting snapshot of the future of space and technology in the 1950’s.

While the special effects are “quaint” by the standards of today’s blockbusters, they were probably top of the line back in the 1950’s (I don’t know for sure, I wasn’t there). The panoramas of the planet, the blaster fire, and the ship, are, instead of mind-blowing, now quite “pretty” per my wife. There is an art involved in the effects, because there were artists involved with the effects back then–apparently drawing them on the celluloid world frame by frame.

But what I like most of all, aside from the story, are the structures. The professor’s home and office are an homage to “mid-century modern” in the architecture, the furnishings, and the decorations. That was what the future would be like, according to certain folks in the 1950’s, and you can seem some glimpses of this future in certain neighborhoods in built during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in the United States.

The captain’s ship and appearances of technology are all part of a recipe to make a child excited about exploring the galaxy. The saucer-shape of the starship, stasis beams used during hyperdrive activity, blasters, and glass globes and equipment whose purpose aren’t quite defined, but just look “futurey” are part of the inspiration. Then there are passenger cars able to go hundreds of miles an hour and the ability for building whatever is required, using molecular technology. The future was exciting story of possibility to kids, and a few adults.


I think Walt Disney and his architects agreed with this and maybe took some elements in the movie as their inspiration for their parks. For anyone who has ever wandered Disneyland’s and Disney World’s old “Tomorrowland”(before significant teardowns and restructuring), and EPCOT Center, there were elements used in the parks that are quite similar to the structures and technology used in Forbidden Planet. I don’t think it was a case of ripping off the movie, but more of a consensus of what the future in 1950’s America was going to be.

Because I am a fan of the design and architecture of “mid-century modern,” it’s a future I certainly wouldn’t hesitate moving towards.

The other vision involves all the fun ways LEGO tried to bring their vision of space, particularly NASA’s space vehicles, to children. Brickset.com does a great job in this post going through the different kits LEGO brought out. Again, as a child, I would have been ecstatic to build my own Saturn rocket on a launch pad, not matter how janky it looked. The imagination filled in whatever shortcomings reality had.

The beauty about the LEGO kits are that kids could deviate and build slightly different versions of space vehicles and probes. It didn’t matter, so long as the child remained inspired and excited enough to continue their exploration of our history and possible future for going out in the Universe.

Whether from LEGO or from MGM, each different vision served different markets and came from different companies. But b0th contain very optimistic messages about man’s place in the galaxy. Sure, these are toys and science fiction movies we’re talking about. However, they both encompass visions that fascinate and maybe motivate a few of us. It’s definitely fun just to go back, even if only for a few hours, and explore the universe according to the 1950’s.

If you have access to Amazon, Forbidden Planet is there for you, if you’re interested. I search Netflix with no success. Or go to one of your local DVD dumping grounds–they will likely have a copy available.



Another lull, I know…

There are those out on the internet who have subscribed to my site, and I truly thank you for that. It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, as you’ve probably noticed. Here’s why I’ve not been quite so productive on this blog lately.

I get to do what I enjoy at work: I research all sorts of space issues, systems, etc. I then get to write about some of what I’ve researched. I do this quite a bit. This means I’m in front of a screen all day long, using whatever search engine I can to find anything to help make sense of certain aspects of space, and then tell that story. If you’re interested in my writing at work, you’re always welcome to read what I’ve put on that site.

So, when I get home, I feel the need to power down. It’s not that I’m not interested in space or writing. But to do good work at work, I need to let my brain–whatever there is of it–take a break. And when I say take a break, what I really mean is to allow it to do background processing. This is the way my mind works–it works whether I want it to or not, gathering bits and pieces of information I maybe didn’t consciously catch, and puts it all, eventually, in a package I can use. I think hunches and other such seemingly random feelings are results of such “background processing.”

So, this results in me not even wanting to touch the laptop at home. But I do enjoy writing about space still, so here’s what I’ll do: I’ll blog when I feel like it. It might be twice a week, once a month, etc.But that’s what I’ll try to do. I’ll focus on space, but reserve the right to stray sometimes. I am a little more active on Twitter, though, so you’re always welcome to interact there, should some insane desire to do so take hold of you.

That written, here’s a little fun post I found on Brickset.com a few weeks ago. Some readers of The Mad Spaceball know I enjoy Legos and Space. Apparently an astronaut or two also appreciate that combination. The picture below was taken IN the International Space Station. This means there are minifigs of the current astronauts zooming overhead. There are a couple more photographs on the Brickset site, so go there to take a gander. It’s good to see this kind of humor among space professionals…

Minifigs in space. Image from Brickset.com

DIY Space: Build A LEGO ISS

The LEGO ISS. Image from the LEGO Ideas site.

Okay, okay!  Really this is about voting for the ability to build the International Space Station out of LEGOs.  Found on the LEGO Ideas website, this particular LEGO model of the ISS stands out because of the details the designer, XCLD, put into it.  There are over 1000 LEGO pieces that have gone into the design and it looks pretty neat.

The thing is, if you like the idea of an ISS kit like this one, then it would be good for you to go vote on it, which you can do on the linked site provided.  Maybe your vote will be the one that pushes LEGO over the edge so that this kit goes from concept to reality.

The model will also include solar panels and Progress/Soyuz capsules.  There is no evidence of any SpaceX Dragon or Orbital Cygnus capsules included with the kit, so some Americans might be disappointed. No word on pricing, but LEGO kits with 1000+ pieces tend to approach the $100 price point.

Also, as a reminder since CollectSpace brought this oldie but goodie up again.  Remember the LEGO Hubble Telescope model I wrote about a while ago?  As you can see from the image below, it looks quite nifty.  Well, that’s still up for voting too.  If you would like to give that model a chance at going into production, then a vote from you might also help.  Go to this page to vote on it.

Image from LEGO Ideas website.

DIY Space: Rebrick’s LEGO Friends in Space

Image from Rebrick.lego.com.

Okay, so this isn’t building a “real” space craft, but it involves LEGOs and it involves the idea of space.  Rebrick would like fans and owners of LEGO Friends, the very, uh, young and feminine (?), version of the LEGO franchise, to build something spacey.  Then those same fans should upload pictures of their creations, to be judged on just how spacey and LEGO Friend-ly they are.

Oddly, the true fans of LEGO Friends are left out of this contest.  The contest is only open to LEGO Friends fans who are 16 year old and older.  This decision is puzzling for the reason already given above, and the fact that younger children tend to embrace their imaginations more.  Also, if there are 16 year olds building with LEGO Friends, maybe they need to be doing something with REAL Friends (TM).

Still, LEGO Friends fans who meet that age criteria and are still interested in building a space creation with their LEGO Friends kits, can go to Rebrick’s site to learn more about this contest.  More details about the contest are here, too.  August 8, 2014 will be the last day to submit those photographs of LEGO Friends in Space.

Grand prize winners will win quite a few LEGO Friends Jungle kits.  Those kits should be from the entire first line-up of the Jungle series.  Which makes total sense, because this is a contest for building SPACE creations.

But, if you like LEGO Friends, and you like space, this might be your chance to win those jungle kits.  Maybe using the LEGO Star Wars kits to do this was too obvious?

DIY Space: Google’s LEGO Moonbot Challenge

Google Lunar

Just pretend the bricks are Legos…

The deadline for registration is closing in for people, age 9 through 17, interested in building “moonbots” for Google’s Lunar XPrize Lego Mindstorms Challenge.  The final day for initial registration is 15 May at 11.59.59PM PST.

The challenge has two phases.  The first is fairly simple, requiring a team video that answers the question “Why should we go Back to the Moon for Good?”  25 teams will be selected from that phase and will receive some generous prizes, listed on this part of the Moonbots 2014 website.

As you peruse the prize list, you’ll probably have noticed the prizes for the second phase.  So how do you get those?  Easy–design your own “game play” (their words) for the moonbots.  The big prize flies the winners to Hawaii.

Overall, not a bad deal.  Kids get to draw a Luna Lego logo.  Kids get to play with Lego robots.  Kids get to make videos of their Lego robots moving around doing various interesting things on a Lego moonscape.  And then there’s the possibility of enjoying Hawaii.

Are you the parent of a child who enjoys this sort of thing?  Then encourage them to participate in the challenge.  If only because a parent or guardian of the team member will also be allowed to go to Hawaii.  My parents never told me playing with Legos would pay off one day…