Surely reading out the countdown is the best job in the space industry? See more of Lia Chan‘s utterly brilliant ‘KSC Launch Complex 39B’ on Flickr. 10… 9… 8…
First flying in 1964 the amazing Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is still the world’s highest flying and fastest manned air-breathing aircraft, despite retiring back in 1999. With a top speed in excess of Mach 3 (that’s over 3,500km/h!), the Blackbird could fly higher and faster than even missiles.
Such incredible altitude and speed meant the SR-71 needed to be built from very exotic materials, specifically titanium; which made up 92% of the airframe. The U.S. didn’t have access to titanium itself, so had to source it from the USSR, with which the Blackbird was of course designed to fight during the Cold War. A complicated route via fictitious organisations and third-world economies delivered the newly acquired Soviet titanium ore to the U.S, where it was used to build a plane to spy on the Soviets… isn’t military history fun!
In total thirty two Lockheed SR-71 Blackbirds were constructed, with the final two being used by NASA until the late 1990s. During a long operational life twelve aircraft were lost to accidents, but thanks to the SR-71’s ludicrous speed and primitive radar-defying stealth technology not a single plane was downed by enemy action.
Today the surviving Blackbirds reside in America’s aerospace museums (or at NASA), but we’ve got one more to add to the SR-71 alumni, thanks to Flickr’s Plane Bricks and this awe-inspiring Lego replica of the world’s most spectacular aircraft. Put simply Plane Bricks’ stunning recreation of the SR-71 Blackbird is one of the most complete and impressive Lego aircraft that we’ve ever come across, with a suitably extensive gallery of superb imagery available on Flickr. Click the link in the text above to reach Mach 3.3 and take a look.
This remarkable airplane is a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), based on the Boeing 747 airliner and pictured here piggybacking the Space Shuttle. It’s been built by Lia Chan of Flickr, who has appeared here before with his incredible Shuttle launch scene. There’s more to see of Lia’s spectacular replica of SCA NA905 on Flickr, where the album includes images of the model alongside its enormous real-life NASA counterpart shot on-location at the Houston Space Centre. Click the link above to visit the full gallery.
The Space Programme has, by a wide margin, produced the fastest vehicles on (and off) Earth. This spectacular recreation of the Kennedy Space centre, complete with beautifully integrated lighting, comes from Lia Chan of Flickr, and it features both the retired Space Shuttle and its SLS replacement. Lia’s huge build first appeared here last year, and has now been re-photographed to capture the creation at night. There’s a whole lot more to see at Lia’s photostream – click here to get ready to launch.
This incredible vehicle is NASA’s Crawler Transporter, built to carry the enormous Saturn rockets, and later the Space Shuttles, to their launch site. Built way back in 1965 (although upgraded several times since then), the Crawler is the largest self-propelled land vehicle in the world, weighing in at over 2,700 tons. It’s powered by two 2,750bhp V16 diesel engines, with another two 1,065bhp engine/generators used for steering, ventilation and jacking… Oh, plus sixteen traction motors powered by four 1,341bhp generators. That’s a lot of power, which when deployed together gives the NASA Crawler a top speed of… 2mph. Or half that when loaded.
So fast it isn’t, but amazing it certainly is, and this spectacular Lego recreation of one of NASA’s most remarkable machines is a fine tribute to the real-world goliath. Built by Lia Chan it’s detailed to a stunning level, and includes a shuttle and booster rocket load too. There’s lots more to see at Lia’s Flickr photostream – click the link above to blast off.
…We just have further to go. Meet the Curiosity Rover, LEGO Cuusoo’s latest offering.
Set number 21104; coming soon to Legoland Mars.
Of all the Cuusoo models to date, this is undoubtedly the one that stays most faithful to the original project. There seems hardly any difference between this set and Stephen Pakbaz’s proposal. Mr Pakbaz is not only a LEGO fan, but a Mechanical Engineer working on the Curiosity project, so we can trust him to make a faithful model.
So far, the Cuusoo project has been a bit hit and miss. It’s a fantastic idea, and I hope LEGO persist with it; models like this make the exercise well worth it. We probably don’t need all the IP-dominated models of wildly varying quality (DeLorean, anyone?) but at least this model shows you don’t need to exploit a popular franchise to get noticed.
One thing I really like about these sets is the presentation. They come in a sturdy, tastefully decorated Architecture-style box with a glossy, square-bound instruction book that includes some fascinating information on the model and its designer. You pay a little more as a consequence but it’s well worth it. That said, this isn’t too expensive – £30 for 295 pieces presented with this quality is perfectly reasonable value.
So, the build. You start with a little slice of Martian terrain for the vehicle to roll over and show off its suspension. Simple, but a nice touch. Next, it’s the body of the rover; a slightly irregular white box with plenty of greebles. Wait, they can’t be greebles – on the real thing, all this stuff does something… There are 17 cameras and many scientific instruments to analyse this vehicle’s surroundings. With much data to process, there’s no need for a fast machine – how does 200 metres per day grab you? – speed freaks need not apply, I guess, despite the nuclear power…
It’s a fairly quick build; reasonably straightforward with a smattering of SNOT and a touch of Technic to liven it up. It’s an enjoyable thing to put together. As you go through it, the book tells you little tidbits of information about the rover and its mission and it’s fascinating stuff. For instance, this vehicle can roll over obstructions up to 65cm high while keeping it’s body full of delicately calibrated instruments amazingly stable.
The model will do something similar. It features the same type of rocker-bogie suspension and it works brilliantly. Roll it over any uneven surface (not too fast…) and it really impresses with the stability of the body. It’s done fairly simply but it works superbly. So, an impressively realistic model at a reasonable price with a dose of playability – what’s not to like?
Criticisms? Come on, there’s gotta be something…. Well, if you’re going to push me, I could wonder why it has conventional truck-type wheels and tires when those hard plastic wheels you sometimes see in space sets might be closer to the real thing. Hardly a big issue, that, and it looks fine as it is. Can’t think of anything else to carp at.
Together, LEGO Cuusoo and Stephen Pakbaz have scored a home run. If the idea of exploring other worlds is at all interesting to you, you’ll enjoy this a lot. 10/10.
The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The fastest plane ever built. The first to use stealth technology. And, according to Michael Bay, a Decepticon Transformer too. This most unbelievable of aircraft was finally retired from service in 1998, some 40 years after it was trialled. 32 were built, with 12 lost in accidents, leaving 20 remaining. Sariel takes that total to 21.
Sariel’s stunning mini-figure scale version of America’s finest is more than a great replica. Mounted on a Power Functions controlled arm, reminiscent of LEGO’s own 8485 Control Centre II from 1995, his SR-71 can really fly. Sort of. A three-axis joystick and a working thrust controller operate a variety of motors and linear actuators, allowing the Blackbird to pitch, yaw and rotate. See how on MOCpages at the link above, or view the video on YouTube below.
This beautiful photo comes from Kei_Kei_Flic on Flickr. Depicting the Soviet-era Lunniy Korabl Lunar Module (and a cheery Russian cosmonaught) on the surface of Earth’s Moon, it’s sadly more fantasy than historic event.
The Russian KL Moon Lander never made it to the Moon. The N1 rocket designed to take it there started encountering problems following the death of its designer, and the project ended in spectacular fashion, with the largest artificial non-nuclear explosion in history.