Lego and its community are paying tribute to four female pioneers of space exploration, with a Women of NASA Lego set to inspire of a new generation of scientists and engineers. The set is a product of the Lego ideas community, where fans of the plastic bricks can put forward design proposals for others to support and offer feedback. This particular idea was conjured up by science writer Maia Weinstock, and it didn't take long for others to jump on board.
"I was absolutely elated when the project reached 10,000 supporters!" Weinstock says. "The set clearly touched and inspired many, as it reached 10,000 supporters in just 15 days. The night on which it appeared we'd reach 10,000, I stayed up until 4:30 or 5 in the morning so that I could watch the 10,000th vote come in. I didn't get much sleep that day, but it was thrilling!"
The idea was taken on by professional Lego designers, who crafted it into an official Lego set consisting of four figurines. One is a miniature "Mother of Hubble" Nancy Grace Roman, known as such for her contribution to the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. She was also first Chief of Astronomy in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters and the first woman to hold an executive position at the agency.
Another figurine pays tribute to computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, whose role in writing the code that got humans to the Moon landed her a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama last year. The others immortalized in plastic are Sally Ride, who was the first woman to fly into outer space in 1983, and Mae Jemison, who became the first African American woman in space in 1992.
"With this project, I wanted to spotlight a fantastic group of women who have made seminal contributions to NASA history," says Weinstock. "My dream would be to know that the first human on Mars – or an engineer or computer scientist who helped her get there – played with the LEGO Women of NASA as a child and was inspired to pursue a STEM career as a result."
Along with the figurines, the set includes replicas of the women's handiwork, such as a model Hubble Space Telescope, a stack of Hamilton's books and Ride and Jemison's launchpad and rocket. It will be available from November 1 and priced at US$25.