Space 1978

This was the debut year for LEGO Space. According to Brickset there were 4 sets released in North America in late 1978. I’m fairly certain that I received the Alpha-1 Rocket Base for Christmas 1978, so that seems about right to me. On to the sets!

Mobile Rocket Launcher (462)

Features: Two astronauts, vehicle, trailer, rocket, computer console, and a radar dish for tracking.

Thoughts: Simple yet functional. LEGO would iterate on the mobile rocket launcher concept several times. This first rocket was fragile and couldn’t even be removed from the launcher without taking it apart (unless you flew it with the gray bracket in the middle).

Alpha-1 Rocket Base (483)

My first LEGO Space set!

Features: Rocket, movable gantry, fuel truck, control center with upper and lower computer banks, radar for tracking, and three astronauts on a crater plate.

Thoughts: 💙💛 The fueling station is a nice touch as are the hoses on the fuel truck. The hardest parts for me to acquire were the hoses and the blue taps.

That radar array looks pretty awesome in profile. It could easily be a weapons emplacement.

Unlike the Mobile Rocket Launcher, this rocket at least could be launched without disassembly, but it was still quite fragile. It was also pretty wobbly in its base and prone to being knocked over.

Space Cruiser (487)

LL924: Mid-sized enclosed spaceship.

Features: Two astronauts, landing pad, forklift, and spaceship with movable cockpit roof, cargo doors in rear to access a storage area that fits a small crate, and seating for two.

Thoughts: I 💙 the forklift and crate! This might be one of the smaller sets to include a landing plate. I wish more sets included baseplates. I appreciate that the first three enclosed space ships each contained a pair of bricks printed with the model number (LL924) – that’s another thing LEGO doesn’t do any more.

Errata: The forklift piece is supposed to be all light gray not gray and black. The correct piece is hard to source and too expensive.

Moveable roof and seating for two

Small crate (using a car door piece from LEGO Town sets)

Command Center (493)

The first space base. The earliest versions shipped with a brick-built crater because the crater plates weren’t yet ready.

Features: Open floor plan, two ground vehicles, four astronauts, radar dishes, tv antennas, and lots of yellow windows all on an iconic crater plate.

Thoughts: LL2079! I assume that this means LEGO Space is set in the year 2079, which would suggest that 1979 was their targeted launch year.

LL2079 and a space scene on this large printed brick. The astronauts had to take off their packs to sit in the chairs, but at least the chairs provide built-in storage!

Wrap-up

That’s it for the initial wave of sets from 1978. Really, I consider the 1978-1979 sets to all belong to a single wave – these just happened to ship a bit earlier in the U.S.A.

Next up: Space 1979. Onward to the future!

The LEGO Space Project

LEGO was my favorite toy as a child. That lasted up until the point that I discovered video games and computers. My favorite LEGO theme was Space (now referred to as “Classic Space”) although I only ever had a few early sets from 1978 to 1980.

Last year I discovered the websites Brickset and BrickLink. For the uninitiated both sites catalog pretty much every LEGO set ever released. Brickset has user reviews, links to online instructions, and nicer set images. BrickLink has comprehensive part inventories for every set as well as a worldwide marketplace of people with parts or sets for sale. All of a sudden I could not only find the name of some set I had always wanted as a child, but could find a way to buy it (or the parts needed to build it) and obtain the building instructions!

The set that started all this interest was a 1980 set that I had seen in catalog pages and really wanted. I had even saved up money and gone to toy stores to buy it, but never found it in stock. That set was Mobile Lab (6901). The transparent green windows and the articulated arm ending in a shovel/scoop fascinated me. It all looked so futuristic and scientific.

Well, thirty six years later I finally picked up that LEGO set and it did not disappoint. All these intervening years I never knew what else LEGO did with its Space theme after 1980. I was unaware of the golden age of LEGO space from 1987-1993 when new sub themes were introduced that were arguably better than anything produced during the “Classic Space” period of 1978-1987.

I enjoy sharing these older sets with my son who is now the same age as I was when my interest in LEGO was at its peak. Today’s sets offer many new parts and colors as well as content from licensed themes (superheroes, Star Wars, etc), but I appreciate the simplicity and design of these earlier sets that perhaps left more to the imagination.

I’ve decided to try and build all the LEGO Space sets that interest me in chronological order by release year. That will be every space set from 1978 through 1996 and some sets from 1997 and 1998 – more or less 2 decades of LEGO Space.

Update: I’ve been posting photos and a short 140-character synopsis of each set to Twitter as I build them, but I will also do a blog post with each year’s sets.

First Stop: Space 1978