It is rocket science… and it is LEGO!
We’re going back to the moon! And this time the plan is to set up shop there. At least that’s what NASA’s Artemis program promises starting with a new rocket launching this year and eventually a lunar orbital space station and a permanent base on the Moon’s surface. Lego is no stranger to making Space sets of course but this collection of four City themed playsets is directly inspired by the real thing.
The partnership between the Lego Group and NASA’s Artemis program combines creative playability and real-world space technology in a way that truly feels exciting, connected and tangible. In this vein, the four sets being reviewed here follow the same logic as the Artemis program with set 60351 Rocket Launch Center propelling our minds and bricks into virtual space to meet up with 60349 Lunar Space Station. From lunar orbit we land at the 60350 Lunar Research Base and roam around the alien surface with the 60348 Lunar Roving Vehicle. All four sets are on shelves March 1st, 2022. Continue reading for our thoughts on all four in this our biggest review yet!
RRP: $229.99 Pieces: 1010 Minifigures: 7
Leaving Earth’s atmosphere can be pretty tricky. A darn big rocket will probably do the trick… This set, the largest of the four, certainly provides my child self with the nostalgia hit it was craving but also really did encourage me do some further research into the Artemis program.
The set contains a large rocket and launch tower modeled after the real thing (pretty faithfully I’d say too), a launch center and an observatory-come-vehicle workshop. Flanking the main builds are a nifty service vehicle, planet rover and light-up drone.
The play features are too numerous to mention but some of the highlights are the retracting garage door under the rotating observatory platform, the rocket’s storage compartments and tower elevator with swing-bridge. The service vehicle also has a clever flexible crane attachment to lift up the asteroid rock. This new rock element is actually two pieces, dual-molded and features in each of these sets. Very neat.
The piece count at 1010 is a little deceptive and may discourage buyers but there are plenty of large pieces. Price-per-piece isn’t really relevant here – if ever. With seven minifigures including alternative hair pieces and plenty of accessories, there are a ton of roles to play from engineer to scientist and, of course, astronaut.
Really, the only stumbling block I see here is still that price point. It’s a steep entry point and if that is your hold-up too then I fully recommend the Lunar Base as your large playset alternative. More on that set in a moment. First, off to spaaaace!
RRP: $99.99 Pieces: 500 Minifigures: 5
The goal of the Artemis program is to have a space station orbiting the moon to facilitate travel between the Earth and the Moon’s surface. This set aims to encapsulate that floaty (technical term) phase of the program. I say aim because although it technically recreates a space station with a small docking capsule for intended interactivity, there are a couple fatal flaws to this Lego re-creation.
I would describe this set as ‘conceptually flawed’. It is meant to capture that sense of weightlessness and there are definite cues to this – the near 360 degree window view does a lot of work. Unfortunately, the station feels very grounded with its supporting struts under the tubular modules and large flat sitting base. Furthermore, there is a play feature operated by placing a considerable amount of force on both extended solar arrays simultaneously to eject a small capsule. Even with the hatch open to the capsule as instructed the force required here feels as if something might just snap! This is no good. When the procedure is complete the solar panels rest on the ground like some sort of drooping, lifeless plant until the capsule is returned to its original nested position. You can, in the meantime, make the space station flap its solar panel wings like a space pelican but I wouldn’t describe this as intended nor realistic. Amusing to me though…
Out of the four sets in this series, this is the only one that falls short in this reviewer’s opinion. More could be done to simulate space, like making part of the orbital rotate for example. There is still fun to be had here though, the five minifigures and docking capsule do make up for a lot and the price point is far more accessible.
RRP: $159.99 Pieces: 786 Minifigures: 6
So, we’ve set up our base on the moon. Now it’s time for some low-G research. NASA has thought of all the techy toys and Lego lets us play with them. We arrive and depart on the lunar lander rocket and proceed to the habitation quarters – a dome above the vehicle bay that must have the best views of the Moon’s surface without question. Hatched tubular extensions branch from either side allowing varied access for both vehicle and astronaut alike.
To investigate the surrounding area and that suspicious moon rock, jump into the buggy or send out the mining rover. Hover above the craters with the skycrane drone with either small winching hook or large claw grabber. This is what that testing and science-ing back at the Launch Center was all for, so make it count! Apologies, kid me back in play mode with this one for sure…
There is so much interactivity here and as alluded to already, it’s wondrous seeing the testing phase of the project from the Rocket Launch Center being realised within this Moon Base set. This mirrors the intentions of the space program and demonstrates the important throughline that science at large is based upon. There’s a great teaching opportunity here for little ones that feels genuine and natural. To illustrate my point, one subtle detail is that the asteroid side build being tested on in the Launch Center set is nearly identical to that in both this Moon set and the smaller Lunar Roving Vehicle set. There’s even perhaps microbial life to be discovered by means of a hidden 1×1 round printed tile.
If the larger Rocket Launch Center is too much of a financial stretch, or perhaps you already have a few rockets in your collection, go for this set: Its great value with playability at least on par with its bigger brother. Including six minifigs, it’s no slouch in that department either and it has one more trick up its sleeve…It is, compatible, you could say with the last set in this Mega-Review!
RRP: $49.99 Pieces: 275 Minifigures: 3
Rounding off this space adventure is the fantastic Lunar Roving Vehicle. Based on concept design for what will actually one day roam the lunar seas, this Rover is not your granddad’s ol’ moon buggy. This vehicle has a pressurised cabin with space for passengers and a pair of articulated robot arms that mean business.
The set is a great entry point into the line and honestly stands strongly on its own half-dozen wheels. The way these six double-wheels move on their independent axes is so fluid, smooth and surprisingly satisfying. It’s a simple build but one that is appropriate to the piece count, price point and 6+ age group. The only slight caveat is the 12 rims and 12 tyres can get a tad repetitive and hard on the thumbs to assemble.
Finally, the Rover makes for a great companion piece to the aforementioned Lunar Research Base. It can connect with the pivoting docking module on the Base and expand the playabilty of both sets. This isn’t a cheap attempt by Lego to split up one set into two and thereby capitalising on a collect-em all mentality. Both sets hold their own and add value to each other.
There are some really strong sets in this mini-wave of City Space Lego. The collaboration with NASA feels like a true partnership between the two organisations with products that demonstrate intelligent and consistent design all while promoting genuinely engaging, thoughtful and inspiring play. With only a couple minor missteps to speak of, this is the Lego Group in top form.
Words by Lukas Mack
Photos by Lukas Mack
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This set was provided free of charge from The LEGO Group. Opinions expressed in the review are those of the reviewer.