Space 1981

Onto the third wave of LEGO Space sets!

New Parts

Some of the new parts for 1981 follow:

  • Arm Grab Jaw with Holder: nice addition for articulated arms
  • Engine, Strakes, 2 x 2 Thin Top Plate: bottom-mounted engine pieces
  • Hinge Plate 2 x 4 with Articulated Joint: sturdy connection for jointed vehicles
  • Plate, Round 1 x 1
  • Plate, Modified 1 x 1 with Clip Light: useful for holding small plates, antennas, or accessories.
  • Plate, Modified 1 x 2 with Ladder
  • Slope, Inverted 33 5 x 6 x 2: the giant inverted space slope. Pairs well with the 6 stud wide transparent windscreen slopes.

Moon Buggy (6801)

Features: Small hover vehicle in gray with black accents, computer, white astronaut, walkie-talkie and a laser gun.

Thoughts: How is this a buggy without wheels? Cool use of radar dish the way it fits onto the plates both above and below. Nice to get two accessories and a printed slope in such a small set. This set has grown on me since building it – it’s definitely in the running for favorite small set.


Space Digger (6822)

Features: Small vehicle with four jets, positioning thrusters, and an articulated grabber arm piloted by a red astronaut with a walkie-talkie

Thoughts: Sort of like a space backhoe? Compact but functional. ❤️ the grabber jaws. Four of the new engine “strakes” provide support and thrust. The new clip light plate is used to mount the transparent red headlights.


Small Space Shuttle Craft (6842)

Features: Small ship with a single large engine, positioning thrusters, and side-mounted lasers piloted by a red astronaut.

Thoughts: Like riding a rocket. This was a speeder bike two years before Return of the Jedi showed us how speeder bikes should look like. White clip light plates hold a pair of black antenna at the rear. The new plate with ladder provides a way of mounting the speeder bike shuttle.


Space Probe Launcher (6870)

Features: Articulated ground vehicle that launches a small flying wedge with one red astronaut.

Thoughts: Neat small set but needs a second astronaut. The larger tires give it a rugged look. Mobile launcher is another archetype that will be revisited. I like the design symmetry of using the clip light plates to hold transparent 1 x 1 plates at the front of both the spaceship and the truck (also symmetry of a pair of positioning thrusters at the rear). Also note the use of the new articulated joint to connect the truck’s cab and trailer.

Here the plate with ladder part is used to represent the truck’s front grille.


All-Terrain Vehicle (6927)

Features: Ground vehicle that deploys a base via a clever mechanism. Dual radar dishes, two astronauts, and a pair of accessories.

Thoughts: Transparent dark blue windscreens! 💙 The ground vehicle uses white and black with transparent blue while the base employs the classic blue and transparent yellow color scheme.

Q: Why is this ground vehicle rocket-propelled?

A: Because space!

I really like the look of those transparent blue windows and the symmetry of the inverted slope below and regular slopes above. This photo also provides a good look at the white clip ring piece bearing transparent red headlights and the black ladders granting access to the cockpit.

The white 2 x 2 slopes on the doors connect with the blue inverted slopes on the sides of the base helping to lift it up and in. The transparent red round plates mounted on the sides of the base slide up the white 1 x 2 slopes on the vehicle’s sides. What an excellent design!

It’s quite cramped inside the base though. The astronaut cannot sit in the chair unless she doffs her backpack or wears it on her front. I do quite like the sturdy mechanism for raising the roof (no less than 4 hinge bricks).


Star Fleet Voyager (6929)

Features: Wasp-waisted mid-sized spaceship with a Concorde-style angled nose, cargo storage in the rear, a single red astronaut, and plenty of accessories.

Thoughts:Was this the replacement for the previous mid-sized ship, Space Cruiser LL924?

Opening cockpit roof. The windscreen and roof look great in transparent dark blue. The backwards facing Classic Space logo seems a little odd.

We’ve seen the mechanism of the back splitting open on hinge bricks twice before in the LL924 and Galaxy Explorer LL928, but this time the crate itself forms the floor of the cargo area and the doors latch the crate securely into place when they close (hence the 2 x 6 plate mounted on the crate’s roof).

Interesting use of window shutters as doors for the crate. I like that they provided six different accessories for this set. Some clip onto the outside of the ship, the rest go in the crate.



These are the six sets for 1981. Note the increased use of white and black in the color scheme as well as the introduction of transparent dark blue windows. LEGO was definitely trying to mix up the color scheme from the initial years. My favorite set of the lot is probably the All-Terrain Vehicle (6927) although the Moon Buggy (6801) is a great tiny set.

Next up: Space 1982


Space 1980

These were the first Space sets introduced since the initial wave. From here on out I find it interesting to examine how the set designs changed and consider how much might be the availability of new parts and/or existing parts in new colors and how much might just be changing aesthetics or a market demand to try something new.

New Parts

There were so many new parts and new prints crafted especially for the LEGO Space theme that I didn’t bother going into them. They were the parts that enabled the Space theme to exist. But now I’d like to look at some of the parts that are new (or new to the Space theme) in each year’s sets.

  • Plate, Modified 1 x 1 with Clip Vertical: Great for holding accessories and building storage racks
  • Brick, Modified 1 x 1 with Headlight: Useful for SNOT (Studs Not On Top) building, aka sideways building.
  • Bar 1 x 4 x 2 with Studs: Railings, etc
  • Arm Holder and Arm Pieces: These were originally maxi-figure shoulders and arms from the mid-70’s. Here colored in gray and used as articulated mechanical arms.
  • Slope, Inverted 33 3 x 2 Hollow with Towball (Scoop): shovel scoop for use with the arm pieces.

Shovel Buggy (6821)

Features: Small vehicle with articulated shovel, printed computer slope, white astronaut, and a walkie-talkie (held in place with the new clip piece).

Thoughts: I’m a sucker for sets with construction/loading functionality. Love the shovel piece with articulated arm. There are many good pieces packed into this small set.


Mineral Detector (6841)

Features: Small sturdy vehicle with twin ground-scanning radar dishes mounted on moving arms, driven by a red astronaut with a walkie-talkie.

Thoughts: Kind of goofy with the big blocky swinging arms but I like it. Perfect companion to the Shovel Buggy. The new bar piece provides a back roll bar detail, and again the new clip piece is used to hold an accessory.


X1 Patrol Craft Space (6861)

Features: Small open fighter with twin engines, lasers, and transparent green windscreen piloted by a red astronaut.

Thoughts: One of the finest small fighters. This thing felt like it was all engines. First appearance of a transparent green window brick. Up to this point all windows had been transparent yellow. I have fond memories of crashing this ship to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”


Mobile Lab Space (6901)

Features: Elevated vehicle with opening side doors, radar, articulated arm that could hold either a sensor array or a shovel with two astronauts and a pair of accessories.

Thoughts: Look at all those green windows! 💚 I imagined these rolling across lunar landscapes like so many alien elephants. In reality this set is kind of mediocre. There’s nothing inside the vehicle (other than a steering wheel) to make it a lab. It can’t fit both the second astronaut and the sensor array at the same time. It looks a bit ridiculous with those 12 tiny wheels. It’s mostly enclosed but then leaves that awkward gap above the windscreen. But I love it anyway. It gets an A for effort. I think the part selection just wasn’t there yet. (Shout out to the headlight brick on each side used to sideways mount transparent red 1 x 1 plates.)


Beta I Command Base (6970)

Features: Open front base spread over two crater plates, launcher with spaceship, small rover, monorail with sled, radar dishes and antennas for communications, and four astronauts.

Thoughts: The quintessential space base set: base, spaceship + launcher, and a rover. (This formula will be repeated with variations several times.) It even boasts a tiny monorail for the long trek between the base and the launcher. So technically this is the first space monorail (more on those later). I also had this set as a child. The spaceship design is reminiscent of the X1 Patrol Craft but wider and with a different color scheme and no tail. The 1 x 6 x 5 display brick inside the base on the left shows the Alpha-1 Rocket Base (483) and repeats the “LL2079” numeric code seen within the Command Center (493). I believe this was the final set to feature a vehicle with the iconic gray air tanks mounted on the front.



Just five sets in this second wave. I owned two of these sets, but these were the last LEGO Space sets I had as a child. Everything from this point on will be 100% new to me.

Next stop: Space 1981

Space 1979

This was the year when the full initial wave of LEGO Space sets was released worldwide. As a child I had at least 3 of these sets.

Space Shuttle (442)

Small two-seater open ship.

Features: Single white astronaut, room for 2, dual steering wheels, jets, positioning thrusters, computer, laser gun, and antenna.

Thoughts: Simple, swooshable. I had this set as a child.

Mobile Ground Tracking Station (452)

Features: White astronaut, doors in back swing open to reveal a computer terminal, rotating sensor array, and trailer with radar dish,

Thoughts: Another of my childhood sets. I 💛 mobile lab sets – something about the intersection of exploration and science. The use of hinge bricks plus tile to create the moving doors made a big impression on me.

Errata: The 2 clear dishes up top should be transparent clear minifig shields, but they’re quite expensive so I did without.

Galaxy Explorer (497)

LL928: Flagship of Classic Space: largest of 3 early enclosed spaceships.

Features: Large ship with opening cockpit and rear compartment, rover, small base with radar dish, four astronauts, landing plate and a crater plate.

Thoughts: This thing had it all. 🚀 One of my favorite sets as a child – I could build it again and again. I believe this was the only ship to come with 2 base plates. Really just one of a few sets ever to come with 2 base plates. Also maybe the only ship to come with a small base (future ships came with deployable rear modules that could be considered bases).

Space Scooter (885)

Small flying wedge

Features: Transparent dark blue round bricks stuck in a fence for engines, red astronaut, antenna, and a slope printed with the Classic Space logo.

Thoughts: One of the smallest Classic Space sets. Maybe too simple.

Space Buggy (886)

Space Jeep!

Features: A small rover with antenna, astronaut, and a laser gun

Thoughts: The other smallest Classic Space set. . That gun was my favorite piece! This vehicle appeared in almost the same form in the Galaxy Explorer (497) and Beta-I Command Base (6970).

Radar Truck (889)

Features: Small truck with movable radar dish and a red astronaut.

Thoughts: Not particularly exciting, but a solid little vehicle. Bonus points for the laser gun.

One Man Space Ship (918)

LL918: Little brother to the Galaxy Explorer. Smallest of 3 fully enclosed early spaceships.

Features: Red astronaut, opening cockpit, storage in the rear.

Thoughts: This was about as small a ship as you could make in 1979 and yet be fully enclosed. Unlike its two larger siblings, the rear does not split open on hinge bricks. The printed control piece was originally used as oven dials! Despite its small size it still merited its own pair of printed model number bricks, the last space set to do so.


These seven sets together with the four sets from 1978 compose the initial wave of LEGO Space sets. (I’m not counting minifigure packs nor base plate packs. I’m also excluding duplicates where the same set was released under different numbers.)

Next up: Space 1980!

Space 1978

This was the debut year for LEGO Space. According to Brickset there were 4 sets released in North America in late 1978. I’m fairly certain that I received the Alpha-1 Rocket Base for Christmas 1978, so that seems about right to me. On to the sets!

Mobile Rocket Launcher (462)

Features: Two astronauts, vehicle, trailer, rocket, computer console, and a radar dish for tracking.

Thoughts: Simple yet functional. LEGO would iterate on the mobile rocket launcher concept several times. This first rocket was fragile and couldn’t even be removed from the launcher without taking it apart (unless you flew it with the gray bracket in the middle).

Alpha-1 Rocket Base (483)

My first LEGO Space set!

Features: Rocket, movable gantry, fuel truck, control center with upper and lower computer banks, radar for tracking, and three astronauts on a crater plate.

Thoughts: 💙💛 The fueling station is a nice touch as are the hoses on the fuel truck. The hardest parts for me to acquire were the hoses and the blue taps.

That radar array looks pretty awesome in profile. It could easily be a weapons emplacement.

Unlike the Mobile Rocket Launcher, this rocket at least could be launched without disassembly, but it was still quite fragile. It was also pretty wobbly in its base and prone to being knocked over.

Space Cruiser (487)

LL924: Mid-sized enclosed spaceship.

Features: Two astronauts, landing pad, forklift, and spaceship with movable cockpit roof, cargo doors in rear to access a storage area that fits a small crate, and seating for two.

Thoughts: I 💙 the forklift and crate! This might be one of the smaller sets to include a landing plate. I wish more sets included baseplates. I appreciate that the first three enclosed space ships each contained a pair of bricks printed with the model number (LL924) – that’s another thing LEGO doesn’t do any more.

Errata: The forklift piece is supposed to be all light gray not gray and black. The correct piece is hard to source and too expensive.

Moveable roof and seating for two

Small crate (using a car door piece from LEGO Town sets)

Command Center (493)

The first space base. The earliest versions shipped with a brick-built crater because the crater plates weren’t yet ready.

Features: Open floor plan, two ground vehicles, four astronauts, radar dishes, tv antennas, and lots of yellow windows all on an iconic crater plate.

Thoughts: LL2079! I assume that this means LEGO Space is set in the year 2079, which would suggest that 1979 was their targeted launch year.

LL2079 and a space scene on this large printed brick. The astronauts had to take off their packs to sit in the chairs, but at least the chairs provide built-in storage!


That’s it for the initial wave of sets from 1978. Really, I consider the 1978-1979 sets to all belong to a single wave – these just happened to ship a bit earlier in the U.S.A.

Next up: Space 1979. Onward to the future!

The LEGO Space Project

LEGO was my favorite toy as a child. That lasted up until the point that I discovered video games and computers. My favorite LEGO theme was Space (now referred to as “Classic Space”) although I only ever had a few early sets from 1978 to 1980.

Last year I discovered the websites Brickset and BrickLink. For the uninitiated both sites catalog pretty much every LEGO set ever released. Brickset has user reviews, links to online instructions, and nicer set images. BrickLink has comprehensive part inventories for every set as well as a worldwide marketplace of people with parts or sets for sale. All of a sudden I could not only find the name of some set I had always wanted as a child, but could find a way to buy it (or the parts needed to build it) and obtain the building instructions!


The set that started all this interest was a 1980 set that I had seen in catalog pages and really wanted. I had even saved up money and gone to toy stores to buy it, but never found it in stock. That set was Mobile Lab (6901). The transparent green windows and the articulated arm ending in a shovel/scoop fascinated me. It all looked so futuristic and scientific.

Well, thirty six years later I finally picked up that LEGO set and it did not disappoint. All these intervening years I never knew what else LEGO did with its Space theme after 1980. I was unaware of the golden age of LEGO space from 1987-1993 when new sub themes were introduced that were arguably better than anything produced during the “Classic Space” period of 1978-1987.

I enjoy sharing these older sets with my son who is now the same age as I was when my interest in LEGO was at its peak. Today’s sets offer many new parts and colors as well as content from licensed themes (superheroes, Star Wars, etc), but I appreciate the simplicity and design of these earlier sets that perhaps left more to the imagination.

I’ve decided to try and build all the LEGO Space sets that interest me in chronological order by release year. That will be every space set from 1978 through 1996 and some sets from 1997 and 1998 – more or less 2 decades of LEGO Space.

Update: I’ve been posting photos and a short 140-character synopsis of each set to Twitter as I build them, but I will also do a blog post with each year’s sets.

First Stop: Space 1978

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar 2014 in Pictures

For the 4th year in a row, my son and I have enjoyed opening the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar each morning in December. Most of these photos were taken with an iPhone 6 Plus (and a couple with an iPhone 6). The iPhone cameras keep improving year-over-year. (The same cannot be said for my photography skills.)

Day 01 Day 02 Day 03 Day 04 Day 05 2014_day_06Day 07 Day 08 Day 09 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13 Day 14 Day 15 Day 16 Day 17 Day 18 Day 19 Day 20 Day 21 Day 22 Day 23 Day 24