Review: 21312 Women of NASA

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21312 Women of NASA is the nineteenth LEGO Ideas set, the third based on something NASA and the second set of vignettes which highlight careers for women in STEM.

I suspect the unexpected success of the first, 21110 Research Institute, helped Maia Weinstock's project, on which this set is based, get the green light when it reached 10k supporters in just 15 days last year.

At first glance the set may not seem particularly appealing, but actually that's not the case at all...


Box and contents

The box is the same size as other small Ideas sets and like those, can be opened without destroying it and used to store the parts in when it's time to put it away.

View image at flickr

There's not a lot of wasted space inside it.

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Inside are three unnumbered bags and a 64-page instruction manual.

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Unlike many Ideas sets manuals, this one is stapled which means it's much easier to lay flat when building (and also to photograph when open!)

Inside, in addition to the building instructions, there are brief biographies of the four women depicted in the set, and features on Maia and LEGO designers Gemma Anderson and Marie Sertillanges.

View image at flickr


Minifigures

The main purpose of the set is to highlight the careers of women who have worked at NASA over the last 50 years or so, so of course the minifigure representations of them are a big part of it.

Four figures are provided. From left to right:

  • Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, in Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983
  • Mae Jemison, the first woman of colour in space, in 1992
  • Nancy Grace Roman, often called the 'Mother of Hubble'
  • Margaret Hamilton, lead developer of parts of the Apollo 11 software

View image at flickr

All four figures feature new torsos and three have new head prints. Sally shares hers with Tina Goldstein. I particularly like Nancy's green horn-rimmed glasses.

The torso prints are exceptionally detailed and a lot of care has been taken to ensure they are accurate, as Marie explains in the manual.

They all have double-sided heads. Say cheese!

View image at flickr

The fine printing and detail is also present on the backs of the torsos.

View image at flickr


Vignettes

Margaret Hamilton & Classroom

First to be built is the least interesting of the three. It consists of a wall, coat stand and a pile of books. It is however pretty faithful to Maia's original proposal and also to the black-and-white photo of Margaret in the manual.

The tile, like every other decorated element in the set, is printed, as indeed they should always be in premium products such as this. Everyone involved in making this so should be commended.

View image at flickr

The wall is attached to the base with clips.

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Margaret can be stood next to a pile of books -- probably computer printouts on green-lined continuous paper. Remember that?

View image at flickr

Sally Ride and Mae Jemison & Space Shuttle

Next up will be the highlight of the set for many, a miniature space shuttle complete with fuel tank and rocket boosters.

It's a great micro-scale representation of the vehicle.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

Gemma has made use of the new Plate 1X1 Round W/ 3.2 Shaft (26047) to enable the two lower engine nozzles to be angled out slightly, which looks great.

View image at flickr

The fuel tank and booster can be detached.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The figures can be stood in front of the shuttle and behind their printed name tiles. Mae comes equipped with a helmet, Sally with a camera.

View image at flickr

Nancy Grace Roman & Hubble Space Telescope

As the 'Mother of Hubble' it's only fitting that the space telescope and a printed representation of a photo taken by it feature on Nancy's vignette.

The common or garden dustbin appears in light grey for the first time since 2009 to represent the satellite's aperture.

The solar panels, printed 1x4 tiles, are held on rather precariously with clips. There's a new Plate 1X1 Round W/ Horizontal 3.2 Shaft (32828), released this year, on top, and another spare in the box.

View image at flickr

Like the other two vignettes, there's not much to see at the back.

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Nancy can be positioned on the vignette next to her 'child'.

View image at flickr


Verdict

I was expecting this set to be an easy pass but now having built it, I like it. It offers a pleasant building experience and it makes a nice display piece. It's well designed, the minifigs are excellent and there's a smattering of new-ish pieces in it. The manual is informative and perhaps best of all, there are no stickers.

The only thing I can criticise is the placement of the name plates on the two single-figure vignettes. Surely it would have looked better to have them on the side the minifigures stand on.

I am pleasantly surprised by the price. $24.99, 24.99€ and, in particular, £19.99 seems very reasonable for a 200+ piece set with four excellent figures, and compares favourably with that of 21110 Research Institute.

Who is it likely to appeal to? I can't see many young girls wanting it if they have to choose between it and a Friends set but it's exactly the sort of set that parents and grandparents will want to buy them. They'll see it as an attractive, educational and inspirational purchase, and I'm certain that recipients will enjoy building it, and just maybe will also be encouraged to follow in the women's paths.

AFOLs will find much to like too, The shuttle, in particular, is a highlight and I suspect its inclusion will spur many people who would have otherwise overlooked it to buy it.

View image at flickr

Overall, then, it's another superb Ideas set that I predict will fly off the shelves, just like 21110 Research Institute did, when it's released on 1st November.

View image at flickr

Thanks to LEGO for providing the set for review. The review is an expression of my own opinions.

52 comments on this article

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By in Australia,

Yeah, that shuttle is gorgeous.

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By in Italy,

Must have!!!

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By in Norway,

Was a bit meh on the set, but certainly starting to grow on me - especially the code stack (even if the famous image has a slightly taller one)

"the navigation software that she and her MIT team produced for the Apollo" to quote Wikipedia :)

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By in Denmark,

Great review. When I get the set, I would try to see if the nameplate can be moved under the two single minifigures. It looks stupid when it's placed under the book stack and the telescope.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ It won't be hard to do. I'll have a go later.

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By in Puerto Rico,

The shuttle and Hubble are great.

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By in Germany,

Women of NASA -- setting new standards in uninterestingness since whenever.

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By in United States,

This is a nifty little set with a very generous price point. Enaging subject matter and unique pieces round out a home run. I'll get one for my oldest boy and one for myself to display. This is VERY cool!

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By in Canada,

Definitely a must have for me, and I can't see how anyone would give this an easy pass. On the basis of the theme alone, I want this set, esp for my future girl to see herself in scientific jobs, and for my future boy to see women in these jobs. When the price makes this choice so easy, the decision's made for me :)

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By in Sweden,

Really happy that Lego made this. Say what you want about 'minifigure pack' Ideas sets, but this set offers great figures and parts at a low price, unlike most other Ideas sets do.

I hope it won't sell out on day one...

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By in United States,

Great set. I'm going to do my best to get this on day one, so I don't have the same issues as I did trying to get Research Institute a little later.

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By in United States,

I wasn't too sure of the appeal of this set outside America, but it's handy to see the commenter's countries beside their names. Looks like there's general agreement even outside the US.

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By in Italy,

Nice review!
But does anyone know why Katherine Johnson was removed from the set?

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By in Serbia,

She/her family did not give permission.

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By in United Kingdom,

So everything's printed? Even the 4x3 panel on Nancy's G Roman's vignette? I miss the days when everything was printed.

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By in United States,

^forno I believe that it was a personal request on her part. I think it was also due the new movie that she's in as well (which I cannot remember).

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By in United Kingdom,

Can't say I'm bothered with this set (except for the neat Shuttle build), I will say the size of it makes it a neat desk/shelf display.

The name plates should be easy to either switch to the figure's side looking at the pics or even place them in the middle. I do this all the time with two seater lego cars, I switch them to be right hand drive (I'm English after all).

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By in Ukraine,

There are two ways to make it in this world, to have a Lego minifigure made after you, or to perform with the Muppets. Those are my standards for celebrity.

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By in United States,

You know these sets were practically voted into existence, right? A sexist comment on a lego set is somehow more interesting? Meeting standards of predictability since whenever.

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By in United States,

How sad to see such lonely people getting offended at a Lego set. Get a life people.

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By in United States,

I will probably get it on a discount,great review!

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By in United States,

I can hardly wait for this, though I hope it goes better than the last one. I never was able to pick it up after a snafu erased it from my day 1 order.

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By in Spain,

A must-have set!! I will get it withthe gift-with-purchase of November

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By in Sweden,

I’m following space science developments, but I’ve never even heard of these people before. So this set’s appeal to me is not the greatest.

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By in Canada,

Some cool builds, but ultimately seems a bit dull unless you are waaay into NASA stuff.

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By in United States,

In future Ideas reviews, could you have a picture of the fan submission as well? It would be nice to compare the two side by side to see how the set evolved.

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By in Canada,

@Dude45 Not even Sally Ride? I've never heard of the other three, but I know who she is. Maybe it's a North American thing.
I don't find this set all that interesting, but I see the appeal. If it had come out a few years ago I would've used Mae to make Doctor Who characters.

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By in United Kingdom,

@captcrouton
And Mark Hamill has both!

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By in United Kingdom,

It's a nice little set, and I'm sure one will end up in my house. My only gripe would be that I'd have preferred to see a 'Space Pioneers' set with a more international flavour (and a gender mix). But as with any ideas set, people have voted for this one. If someone with a lot more building skill than me puts one on Lego Ideas, and myself and 9999 others vote for it, perhaps it'll happen.

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By in United States,

Wait, this set got TEN THOUSAND supporters in just fifteen days?!?!?!

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By in Germany,

@ dylanwho: In case your little quip was directed at me -- and I have a feeling it was --, how dare you call my statement "sexist" (and at the same time entertain the hope not to come across as "predictable")? I would demand satisfaction if this weren't the internet where this sort of behavior is common and without consequence. And you do know there is such a thing as positive sexism, right? Alternatively, I could call you USA-centric for liking it, which would be just as arbitrary.
This set focuses on people I've never heard of working for some organisation I have no interest in, so I find it, to quote the immortal Homer Simpson, "BOOOOORING", and believe it or not, it would bore me to tears just as much if it was about men, children, pet hamsters, aliens, robots, facility managers (m/f), up-and-coming IT wizkids or pens, pots and pocket calculators of NASA.
FYI, others IDEAS sets I really dislike include but are not necessarily limited to Curiosity Rover, Research Institute, Adventure Time and Caterham Seven. Oh, and don't even get me started on that Birds one ... Good luck finding a common denominator (clue: it's the BORING ones). So much for predictability. Sheesh.

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By in Australia,

I'm not getting this set because I have no interest in it, and it's not because I'm sexist. My mind wouldn't change if it consisted entirely of straight white middle-aged males. I'm not paying $50 AUD for what is essentially a battle pack.
But it's nice to see that the torsos don't have that weird indentation printed on the sides, except for Hamilton. Sure, the classic torso isn't really accurate to a real feminine body, but it isn't really accurate to a human body in general, either.

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By in Australia,

The box has a typo. Margaret Hamilton worked at NASA in 1969, not 1959.

From Wikipedia:

"...earned a B.A. in mathematics with a minor in philosophy from Earlham College in 1958. In 1960 she took an interim position at MIT..."

LEGO really need to lift their game when it comes to quality control.

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By in United States,

@Brick Dangerous - come on, you would even say no to alien robot pet hamsters?? :)

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By in United Kingdom,

The cause for the set is sound, the minifigures are great, and there are some nice printed parts, but it still isn't tempting me into a purchase unfortunately. I think I've probably just come to expect a bit more 'wow' from Ideas projects after the last couple of years, in terms of build and content.

I'm quite interested in what NASA's doing right now and in the future for space exploration, but know very little about the history besides common knowledge - so in this sense the set works from an educational perspective for me. But the fairly simple micro builds just don't add enough to the set to merit a purchase, even at its low price point. I feel it just needed more 'sustenance' - like placing the minifigures as if they worked together all at the same time in a NASA hangar build with lots of gadgets at a £50-£60 price point. I feel the display stands work better for, say the Architecture range than they do for these sorts of builds.

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By in Canada,

Ugh, that shuttle is soooo out of scale! The space geek in me cannot get over how giant the orbiter is compared to the boosters and tank! The orbiter should only be two thirds the size of the tank, and the boosters should stretch out to almost as wide as the wings. I can't believe nobody has pointed this major flaw out yet! This will be a hard pass for me, seriously Lego, do your research!

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By in Australia,

The Research Institute went from "not yet for sale" to "out of stock" before I was able to get one. I now live near a LEGO store so hopefully I can get it easily from there. Even at the Australian RRP its still worth it just for the Margret Hamilton display alone (as an Apollo fan, a space buff, a computer geek and a computer history buff, the only thing cooler than having a minifig of the lead programmer for the Apollo spacecraft software would be having a copy of the actual source code for that software :)
EDIT: Turns out the code is available at https://github.com/chrislgarry/Apollo-11 which is really cool :)

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By in United States,

I'll get at least one - love the shuttle and telescope - may have to incorporate these into a museum somehow. I also quite like the new torso designs - might get a second just for those.

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By in United States,

@Brick Dangerous forgive me if I misunderstood your first post, it reads as pretty dismissive. The reasons this set is being made are 1. on the consumer side for some excellent female inclusivity and 2. on the business side as a way to help expose women and girls to the awesomeness of Lego that we all enjoy. The context of this set is freighted with a larger social issue, it’s not a robot or a car or a building. So my assessment (though apparently wrong) isnt totally out of left field. Not that you owe anyone here any clarification, but your second post had much more reasoning and qualifying statements. Side note: do you normally “demand satisfaction” in real life misunderstandings? Pistols and all?

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By in United Kingdom,

> 1. on the consumer side for some excellent female inclusivity

There already is female inclusivity in LEGO space. In the 2015 space sets, for example, 50% of the shuttle crew was female, and in the starter set, the engineer was female. The others don't wear lipstick so are presumably identifed as male.

Where it isn't female inclusivity when it comes to real named people in space sets, it is female exclusivity. There are no named males in any NASA sets.

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By in Sweden,

This isn’t a particularly bad set and I like that the Hubble was upgraded in Lego’s version. Maia Weinstock’s original version was not that great.

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By in United Kingdom,

The little shuttle is as cute as a button. I might buy the set just for that.

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By in Australia,

I have no idea who these women even are so it’s a pass for me. Much like the Adventure Time Ideas set. Wonder what the future holds for more of these ‘Men of’ and ‘Women of’ sets from Ideas?

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By in United Kingdom,

^ I doubt there will be a "Men of ..." set, labelled as such. It would be politically toxic. Even if sold alongside a "Women of ..." set, there would be complaints about sexism, questions about production numbers and availability of each, etc.

They would probably always do a "People of ..." and included both men and women, rather than do a "Men of ...".

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By in Netherlands,

Neat set! And for the space geeks: the Saturn V (21309) is available as well (on backorder, shipping Nov 9th) again on S&H websites for EU countries.

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By in Germany,

@ ra226: You got me there.

@ dylanwho: Nah, I stopped that sometime during the 1880's. ;)

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By in Romania,

It is like a collection of polybags. Hence, the price is way too high. It should not cost more than fifteen bucks. And then, I would wait for it to be discounted - such as on Black Friday or, if not, on Christmas. The figurines are nothing special, but they are still good to fill a city. Around a buck each.

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By in United States,

Set looks better than expwct d. I was going to buy it just for the figures (like most sets these days), but he little builds look good too. Hopefully I’ll be able to get two, one for me and one for the daughter.

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By in United States,

CCC Yea, it's just too soon for that. And I don't personally have a problem with that, but I could absolutely see how other men could, and it really is a mess. One day humankind will have equality sorted out, and by that time, aliens will have shown up, and we'll start the whole thing all over again.

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By in United States,

Eh... there's just really anything that interests me here, except for the build of the space shuttle, which itself isn't enough to justify the price of the set to me. An easy pass for me, and not just because I think "Women of NASA" is an inherently sexist topic. (If you think "Men of NASA" would be sexist, it's only logical that you conclude "Women of NASA" is exactly as sexist for precisely the same reason.) But even a "People of NASA" set wouldn't interest me if this is the only thing it includes. The Saturn V set was great because it actually shows an actual thing of great interest, that's actually an accomplishment to build. The very subject of this set only applies to the minifigs... great for people who like collecting minifigs, but I'm into Lego for the BUILDING, of which this has very little, and what little it have just isn't a very interesting experience.

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By in Germany,

Having it built, I can say it's a really cool set. Yeah, I didn't know about these women. Now I do. Mission accomplished! It's educational and inspirational at the same time. And it has a shuttle! And the Hubble Spacetelescope! Lego should do a whole theme of real space exploration. Not only NASA-stuff etc. I'd buy an Ariane V rocket or an ISS or MIR in an instant!

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By in United States,

It now appears to be sold out at [email protected] It was on sale for several days, so it is possible it may not show back up again. Even odds...

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