Lego’s original spaceship, the Galaxy Explorer, is back and better than ever

Last January, Lego promised that its 90th anniversary would be one to remember: the company agreed to revive one of its classic Lego themes (like Space, Castle and Pirates) with a new Lego set for adults.

But it turns out we’re not just getting a nostalgia bomb today – the company has decided to bring back classic Space and classic Castle at the same time. First up, Lego is revealing the Galaxy Explorer, a $100 upgraded version of the iconic original Lego spaceship that will be pre-ordered today. And second, it’s announcing the Knights of the Lion Castle, which – at $400 and 4,514 pieces – is easily the most intricate and impressive castle set the company has ever produced.

To learn more about the new Lego castle, touch here.

For days now, I’ve been poring over the high-res photos of each set you’ll find below, marveling at the hidden details and gameplay features. But I didn’t have to do it alone: ​​I also spoke with their lead designers, Mike Psiaki (see also: Titanic, Saturn V, A007’s Aston Martin DB5) and Milan Madge (Space Shuttle Discovery, Pirates of Barracuda Bay, Central Perk). I even spoke with Niels Milan Pedersen, a 44-year veteran who co-created Lego Pirates and Forestmen, worked on many classic space themes, and designed many of the most iconic forts, castles and ships, including the Black Knight’s Castle, Castle of the Royal Knight I was lucky enough to own as a child, and the legendary Barracuda of the Black Sea.

The original 1979 Galaxy Explorer set is very studded and angular and relatively flat.

The original Galaxy Explorer set from 1979.
Photo: Constructions from the back of the box

With Galaxy Explorer, says Psiaki, the goal was to spark nostalgia by building the ship you think you remember – not the one that actually existed. Most people have only seen photos of the original 1979 set, and even the kids who held one are no longer kids. Here’s what he told me:

We’ve noticed that adults often remember the Lego kits of their childhood as much more impressive and immersive than they really are – and our big bet that we’re making with this model, the hypothesis we’ve come up with, is about how big they are. So, like when you’re a kid, you’re much smaller. Now, you’re just physically bigger and take up a lot more space. Seeing that same set through an adult’s eyes doesn’t really command your field of vision, essentially, right?

But how much bigger? When Psiaki realized he was 50% taller than his own seven-year-old son, this became the reference point. The new 1,246-piece Galaxy Explorer is approximately 50% larger in all dimensions – “engines that have two modules around it, we make three modules, the width of the wings increases, the thickness of the board” and anything else designers can stretch .

As you can see, the Galaxy Explorer framework has some height for him now – in 1979 it was built largely with thin, flat gray boards. The new one is also 20.5 inches, or 52 centimeters long.

In the end, the Galaxy Explorer became mostly an enhanced version of the original, “so we’re almost imagining that we’re looking at the Galaxy Explorer with a high-def camera.” They kept it sharp and angular, with as few state-of-the-art arched pieces as they could. I think it’s amazing, especially side by side with photos of the original.

See the robot? He originally appeared in Lego 6809 and has no name. “Internally, we like to joke that it’s the Cosmobot because it’s definitely not an astromech. If you find a big name, we would consider making that canon.”
Photo: Lego

Another photo of the original Galaxy Explorer.
Photo: Andrew Gould (Wikimedia Commons)

But, interestingly, it would not always be so. “We originally went this route of, okay, how we modernized the Galaxy Explorer,” says Psiaki. “How would that actually work as a spaceship?” But that approach was abandoned after they found themselves essentially building another Space Shuttle Discovery, and they also launched modernized designs for the astronauts.

Benny, the astronaut from The Lego Movie, with his stereotypical broken helmet.

But Psiaki’s team found a few places to modernize the set where it felt thematically appropriate. Some of the original printed Lego computer bricks have returned – but now as flat boards instead of angled displays, making them look less like CRTs and allowing more of them to fit in the cockpit. Not only do you get the classic Lego space helmet, but a newer version with a thick chin strap that’s less likely to break. “That was the joke the LEGO moviewhere Benny has the helmet molded with the thing broken because that’s how everyone remembers that helmet,” Psiaki reports.

Psiaki says the classic helmet allows Lego to fit four minifigures into the cockpit, which didn’t work well with a modernized one they tested.
Image: Lego

See: Lego computer tiles, landing gear mechanisms and a ramp for the rover.
Photo: Lego

And where the original only had a handful of detachable stationary columns to serve as the landing gear, you can flip the new set’s landing gear inside the frame. “I just loved vehicles where you can fold the entire landing gear; I remember being very disappointed, like the first Lego Millennium Falcon, that the brackets were all stuck. Like, come on, they should fold!” Please Lego let him work on an Ultimate Millennium Falcon where they actually work.

Like the original, there is a hidden garage inside for the rover. “I don’t want to spoil how it works, but there’s a little game feature where you slide off the ramp and then drop it and the rover…” he trails off.
Image: Lego

Not every part of the classic Galaxy Explorer made the cut: the original came with a landing pad – you can see a themed nod in the image below, as well as what appears to be a couple of alternate builds, but it’s unclear if they are parts. set officers. And while the new cockpit fits four minifigures simultaneously, it lacks the retro feel of the original flat-top lifter.

Flanking the new set, some… alternative builds, perhaps?
Image: Lego

One last image of the new Galaxy Explorer. Blow it up to see inside the cockpit and command center.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to reach the original Galaxy Explorer designer to ask what he thought of the new build: Jens Nygaard Knudsen, who created Lego Space and designed the original Lego minifigure, died in 2020 at age 78. his longtime collaborator Niels Milan Pedersen says he sees a lot of Jens personality shining through – and if you want to know more about Jens and Niels’ work on Lego Space, including prototype sets, I strongly suggest this profile (pdf) by his colleague Mark Stafford.

When it comes to the early days of Lego Space, Pedersen remembers that most were the guns – or lack thereof. Back then, designers had to pretend they were adding antennas to spaceships: “We weren’t allowed to make anything like weapons of any kind, although Jens knew kids would use them as laser weapons.” Pedersen ended up sculpting many, many iconic Lego pieces over the years, but his first was the space camera. “Most people call this a space bazooka. We can’t call it that, that’s for sure!” he says with a laugh.

The new Galaxy Explorer should be up for pre-order today on for $99.99, £89.99 or €99.99 and should go on sale on August 1st. I will be buying one.

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