Build your own LEGO / NASA Curiosity Rover

Earlier this month LEGO launched their own take on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover — the amazing red planet crawler that successfully landed on the surface back in August 2012. Now you can buy and build your own interplanetary rover for just $30 + shipping at the LEGO store.

I bought one on launch day (January 1) and just got it this week. And 295 pieces later I got it assembled. Whew!

It comes with a nice manual / mission overview booklet in several languages. This is definitely an adult toy, as the assembly process would probably frustrate all but the most die-hard young LEGO or dedicated science fans. I think it took me about 90 minutes to get it assembled in a single sitting.

Here’s mine, assembled and on my desk at home:

On thing’s for sure — this thing would not survive a trip to Mars (about 140 million miles, on average). It’s fairly delicate, with spindly arms and legs and protruding parts that are plastic stand-ins for the various sensors and tools on the real rover.

What’s remarkable, though, is that the wheels and suspension system work. You get a pretty good feel for why the suspension was made this way — to bumble over rocks and uneven terrain with independent movement for each wheel.

I’d say the level of detail in the LEGO model is amazing, but that’s not true. What is amazing, though, is how well LEGO did in creating a credible model using mostly common LEGO parts. It seems like there are a few unique parts, but for the most part I’ve seen these elements before in other LEGO kits, but their application is really creative.

So for $30 you can have a little piece of space science history on your desk and get your hands on some of the mechanical design of the real thing. Plus, if you buy this model, you’re helping validate a unique market approach by LEGO — the crowdsourcing of ideas and even model designs through their CUUSOO program. This particular model was created by a JPL engineer that worked on elements of the original rover. Very cool.

Thank you NASA!