Which will go into commercial service first: Blue Origin’s orbital-class New Glenn rocket and Blue Moon lunar lander, or the Lego toy versions?
The answer will depend not only on how much progress Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ space venture makes on the real things, but on how many people support the Lego Ideas project as well.
The 2,670-piece set would include a 1:110 scale version of the two-stage New Glenn and the human-capable variant of the Blue Moon lander, plus extras including a launch tower, rovers and a satellite. The rocket would be about 40 inches high.
The whole assemblage is designed by Valerie Roche and Matthew Nolan, the team behind the 1,969-piece Saturn V Lego rocket (which is also built to 1:110 scale), plus proposed SpaceX Falcon/Dragon and SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy rocket sets.
All of those sets went through the Lego Ideas process, which lets fans of the building blocks vote on construction designs. If a kit proposal attracts 10,000 votes, the Lego overlords will consider it for commercialization.
The Saturn V kit was a huge hit, and this year an Apollo 11 lunar lander kit landed on store shelves as well. Lego hasn’t yet given its blessing to SpaceX rockets, but it’s probably only a matter of time.
Time is a factor for the Blue Origin proposal as well: As of press time, Lego fans have registered 1,990 votes for the design, and the tally will have to reach 10,000 by May 2021 to get further consideration. (Six months will be added if the count reaches 5,000.)
That’s just about the time when Blue Origin expects to start launching New Glenn from the orbital launch pad that’s currently under construction in Florida. Although the company has its headquarters in Kent, Wash., New Glenn will be manufactured in a huge Florida factory, and the rocket’s BE-4 engines will be coming from Kent as well as Alabama.
Blue Moon is more of a question mark: Blue Origin and its partners in the project — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper — have proposed building the landing system for NASA’s use in the Artemis moon program. The team is likely to get NASA’s go-ahead to continue development, and there’s a chance that astronauts will be riding Blue Moon to the lunar surface in 2024. (Boeing and SpaceX are also competing for moon landings.)
It’s not a slam-dunk that Lego will choose to immortalize Blue Origin’s spacecraft with bags of plastic blocks, but in any case, Bezos and his team have to get more serious about merchandising.
After all, SpaceX already has an online store offering branded apparel and accessories, including Falcon 9 model rockets. Blue Origin has an employees-only shop at its Kent headquarters — but one should expect much more from a venture led by Amazon’s billionaire founder. Bring on the “Gradatim Feroci-toys”!
Hat tip to Universe Today and Evan Gough.