Secrets of the Saturn V

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View image at flickr

21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V has received almost universal acclaim for many different reasons, notably including the piece count of 1969 which reflects the year of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Huw and I recently attended the Fan Media Days in Billund and met with Carl Merriam, Mike Psiaki and Austin Carlson who designed the set. We discussed the circumstances surrounding the 1969 parts included and were interested to learn how this appropriate total came about.

Read on for the full story...

The original LEGO IDEAS submission contained 1179 pieces but it quickly became apparent that the final model would include a significantly higher number. The idea that the set might consist of around 1969 pieces was therefore considered at an early stage of production, although this was dismissed as being highly unlikely so the design process began without aiming for an exact piece count.

View image at flickr

However, in a pleasing coincidence the completed design included 1973 pieces! Four pieces were accordingly removed from the set, leaving a final total of 1969. The additional four elements were taken from the tallest of the three display stands included as two stacks of two 1x6 plates replaced four stacks of two 1x2 plates which had originally been positioned at each corner. The designers also considered withdrawing four 1x1 plates from the lunar module, one of which is circled below, although this proved to be unnecessary.

View image at flickr

Generating the instructions presented another issue as the inventory suggested that the set contained only 1968 pieces. However, after some research they realised that the instructions had not taken account of the orange brick separator included, bringing the total up to 1969!

Many thanks to Carl Merriam for sharing this story with us and to the other designers for creating such a brilliant model.

The set can be ordered from shop.LEGO.com but such is its popularity that it's currently on back-order:
USA ($119.99) | Canada ($149.99) | UK (£109.99) | Germany (119.99€) | France

 

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33 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks for this really interesting bit of info. I'd been wondering what had to be added or taken away to get to that piece count. I'm glad we didn't miss out on something more substantial.

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By in United Kingdom,

Haha! What a neat coincidence that was.

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By in United Kingdom,

Although I knew a little about the circumstances already, it's very interesting to find out exactly where the pieces had come in from and been removed from. Considering the size of the set it must have been a fairly happy coincidence, and I don't believe the piece count has ever been printed on a non-North American set box before!

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By in United States,

For me, TLG is really hitting its stride with space sets including: #10213, #10231, #21101, and #21104. This latest set, #21309, is yet another space set home-run. It's interesting that more than half of the space sets I've listed are from the Ideas theme, which speaks volumes for TLG's Ideas concept.

The Saturn V design is spectacular on many levels, from the incorporation of details to its appearance as a display model. I particularly like the scale of the Saturn V (39 inches) as compared to the Shuttles Expedition and Adventure (17.5 inches). While not perfectly to scale with each other, they are pretty close. Another special (and as-yet unheralded) feature of the Saturn V are the many opportunities available to use its parts or inspiration to create some awesome space MOCs. The first MOC that came to mind for me was the launch platform, which is perfectly suited to a Lego MOC. It would also be possible to MOC some other rockets such as the Ares/Paris rockets from the Saturn V.

In short, well done, TLG, well done!

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By in Australia,

Great piece and wow what a set, to me it seems a certainty for set of the year.

TLG well done with design and taking on this most beautiful Idea, but also learn your lessons from such a very poor sales estimate. Back ordering on day 1, is clearly not a good sign.

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By in United States,

I have read the below several times and don't understand what exactly happened in terms of what exact pieces were removed. Would someone kindly clarify this to me? Thanks.

"The additional four elements were taken from the tallest of the three display stands included as two stacks of two 1x6 plates replaced four stacks of two 1x2 plates which had originally been positioned at each corner."

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By in United Kingdom,

Interesting feature!
Shame the initial part count hadn't come to less that 1969 before being re-examined as I would have preferred slightly longer blue supports to aid stability. Even more desirable would have been a second printed command module so one could be used for the splash-down vignette as intended and a second could sit on top of the rocket after the Launch Escape Assembly was jettisoned.
I had wondered if the service module had been filled in (rather than remaining hollow) to bring up the part count. If it had been left empty it could have housed the astronauts. I store my 2 spare astronauts squeezed into the Command module in the voids between the anti-studs.

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By in United Kingdom,

^^

"The additional four elements were taken from the tallest of the three display stands included as two stacks of two 1x6 plates replaced four stacks of two 1x2 plates which had originally been positioned at each corner."

I believe eight 1x2 plates were replaced by four 1x6 plates. There were separate stacks in four corners, now two stacks down two sides.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Correct.

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By in Puerto Rico,

Thanks for this interesting information, I had no idea that the brick separators formed part of the piece count (well it seem that in this set it does).

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By in United States,

That's a cop-out. Brick separators are NOT meant as buildable parts and thus should not be considered in the total part count. If so, then they should also include the spare parts as total part count which would exceed the magic number they are trying for. You can't have it both ways.

Edit: Hmm, show me someone who's used brick separators in a MOC and I'll be more accepting. They do have some connection points, so if that is the criteria for a usable part then it would be grudgingly ok.

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By in United States,

@darkstonegrey - How is it a cop-out? When a brick separator is included in a set, it's included in the parts inventory and thus the set count.

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By in United States,

^ I'm considering how Rebrickable lists it in their part lists - brick separators are not counted as a standard part, and it's not used as a part in any official builds.

I see what you're getting at tho, spare parts are not included in the official LEGO inventories so TLG does have it both ways. Well that puts a wrench... er brick separator... in the cogs of my argument ;)

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By in United States,

I would definitely get this but I do not have the cash :(

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By in United States,

Cool, I've been wondering about this.

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By in United Kingdom,

Anyone counted the pieces yet to make sure? :D

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By in United States,

ab21, I've never seen a MOC using a brick separator. Thanks for sharing!

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By in United States,

Thanks for the link to all the brick separator MOCs. I'm getting swamped with them; it's good to know that there is a use out there for all the extras.

I ordered this set, but it's already back ordered. So I won't get it until right before we leave for a vacation. Would it be tacky to haul this along to my in-laws'? ;)

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By in United States,

I was so disappointed that it sold out so quickly. But my wife was at the mall on Saturday and stopped in at the LEGO store to inquire if they had any sets. They said they were out and were receiving calls about the set every 15 minutes.

But they also told my wife that they were expecting a shipment of LEGO products in that day between 10 and noon, and that it was unusual to receive a shipment on the weekend. They didn't know what would be in it, but told my wife if she stuck around they'd let her know (but couldn't hold any sets).

Fortunately for me the shipment contained a few of them. So I got my Saturn V. :) It's a gorgeous set. We were watching Apollo 13 tonight and I kept comparing the set to the movie rocket. TLG hit a home run with this one.

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By in Poland,

One more thing TLG could do was to start selling it in mid July, preferably 16th (day of the start) or 20th (day of the actual moon landing). :-) Of course we would have to wait longer. Otherwise it seems perfect. Mine has launched on Friday and I wonder, whether it will take less than the way to the moon.

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By in Finland,

To be honest, I don't really like it when they take the brick separator into account. It's just such a forgettable thing on the whole.

Generally speaking I think that they should start to regulate the inclusion of brick separators in sets, because the BS is a comparatively large piece and every time it takes away the orange plastic. I and many others have gotten A TON of them (more than 20) already from sets released over the last five years or so, and therefore there's need for zero more. I have two separators that I always use and the rest of them are in a bag as total triviality.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ So they could just remove the separators and charge the same price for the set.

Or give them away free with sets of say $50 if the buyer wants one.

Or stay as they are and include them with sets where they are useful.

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By in France,

Started building mine this weekend. So far, so amazing.

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By in United States,

The Lego designers must have stuffed a *lot* of parts inside for structural integrity and section mating, to have increased the count that much.

Still "waiting for new stock" on my order. 6 stores within 10 miles of Manhattan, but no Lego store near me. Waiting.

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By in United States,

Very interesting. The part count really adds to how special this set truely is.

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By in United States,

If you're complaining about accumulating brick separators, you need to check out the MOC link @ab21 posted above. It would be great if TLG used them in builds at some point!

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By in United States,

wow byfar the best ideas set ever. i am on the lego cuusoo page and have seen great work but i can see why this is now a set

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By in United States,

I love this set it looks amazing. its funny as when you see picture of it it doesn't look like a bit set at all. I saw it this evening in the LEGO store window and went WOW!!! I wasn't thinking of getting it but I will now as it will go nicely with my Space Shuttle.

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By in United States,

why does the lunar lander pictured in this article look like all of it's "gold" parts are chrome gold? The one in my set contained only 4 chrome gold pieces (the cheese slopes), with the rest being pearl gold. looks quite different than the picture above!

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By in United States,

Update: My order, placed on shop.lego.com June 2, has now changed from "Backordered" to "In Warehouse"... Fingers crossed...

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By in United States,

I just found out Lego shop online now out of stock that's short time frame, I thought they will make more for Christmas or later date so I can buy one. I wanted to buy one by July.

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By in United States,

juez

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