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On May 20, 2023, The Lego Group successfully launched 1,000 minifigures into space. The tiny astronauts made the journey aboard roofless 3D-printed space shuttles. The lightweight vehicles were built by a team of space architects and engineers from Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The purpose of the mission was to encourage kids to follow their dreams.
"We want to show children that their dreams can reach beyond the boundaries of space," stated Iva Ambrožová, marketing director of Lego in the Czech Republic. "The Lego brand aims to inspire small builders and support them on their way to realize everything that is possible."
The toys were launched into space on three separate balloons. Each carried about 330 astronauts. The balloons propelled the space travelers to an altitude of 21 miles (34 km) before they burst. The shuttles and their passengers glided safely back to Earth with the help of parachutes. The entire ride was captured on tape by two strategically-placed cameras.
The mission went flawlessly. But it was not without challenges. The biggest one was ensuring the astronaut figures did not fall off their open-air space platforms after the balloon burst. That's because, during the early part of the descent, the shuttles were tumbling down at speeds of up to 186 mph (300 km/h). The pace slowed down substantially once the parachutes opened.
Also, for a successful lift-off, the spacecraft and its occupants had to weigh no more than 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms). The team kept the load low by building the shuttles with lightweight materials like carbon fiber and 3D-printed stainless steel.
The Lego astronauts will be given away to 1,000 randomly selected residents in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. To be eligible for this giveaway, fans must buy and register a new Lego set.
Resources: Space.com, aerotime.aero