Move over Lego spacemen, there’s a new league of scientists and astronauts joining the Lego universe.
Lego Ideas newest fan-inspired set, released Wednesday, will feature four women of NASA, who blazed the trail for women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM). The set will take brick builders on a journey to the stars, inside the lab of an MIT software designer, and into outer space as they snap together the 231-piece sets for each woman. It includes the block figurines of Nancy “Mother of Hubble” Grace Roman; Margaret Hamilton, who developed the navigation code for Apollo 11; Mae Jemison, who was the first female astronaut of color; and Sally Ride, the first female astronaut.
Maia Weinstock, a Lego-enthusiast and deputy editor of MIT News, designed the set and submitted it to the Lego Ideas program. It took just 15 days for her idea to gain the 10,000 fan-votes it needed to achieve liftoff, landing on the desk of the Lego Ideas review board. Now, Hamilton, Ride and company will join the ranks of other fan-inspired Lego Ideas sets like Apollo 11, The Beatles Yellow Submarine and the cast of the Big Bang Theory.
She hopes her set will inspire young girls to follow in the giant footsteps of the real-life counterparts to the tiny Lego figurines, and pursue a career in STEM. And, who knows, maybe some more Nobel Prize winners with two X chromosomes.
In the meantime, check out the accomplishments of the four newest Lego stars (no assembly required).
Nancy Grace Roman
Chief of Astronomy, Office of Space, NASA
They call her the Mother of Hubble, and her legacy begins with the stars. Growing up she learned about the constellations from her mother, and when she was hired at NASA in 1959 to establish the nascent agency’s first astronomy program. But that was just the start for Nancy Grace Roman. The former chief of astronomy helped make the Hubble Space Telescope a reality, discovered that stars in our galaxy were different ages by analyzing their elements and ushered in a new era of space-based astronomical instruments. Oh, and she blazed a trail for women in the science field. Roman graduated from the University of Chicago with a doctorate in astronomy and became the first female to hold an executive position at NASA, all at a time when women were discouraged to pursue science. Now, joining Lego’s long list of famous figurines, Roman, 92, is poised to reach and inspire a new generation of stargazers.
Apollo Software Engineer
There would be no giant leap for mankind if it weren’t for Margaret Hamilton. During an early period in the field of computer science, Hamilton led a team of engineers in developing Apollo 11’s guidance and navigation system. Her rigorous testing and work on the project amounted to a stack of code taller than her — all of it flawless. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin began their descent onto the Moon, Hamilton and her team’s software raised an alarm and adjusted the computer system to make the landing possible. Without it, they would have aborted, according to a NASA article. The code established the building blocks of software engineering and was used for Skylab and the Space Shuttle. Hamilton herself went on to lead the Software Engineering Division at MIT’s Instrumentation Labs, and earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Before she became a Lego, Sally Ride had already captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of little girls across America, as the first female NASA astronaut to travel to space. Ride’s journey began in 1978, when she was one of six women in NASA’s graduating class. On June 18, 1983, she rode on the Challenger space shuttle, entering territory no woman had visited before. Ride’s career didn’t end there. She flew a second shuttle mission in 1984, and later helped investigate the disastrous Space Challenger crash in 1986. Beyond space, Ride also established Sally Ride Science to encourage girls to follow in her footsteps and pursue a STEM career.
Joining Sally Ride on her Lego mission to outer space is Mae Jemison, another historic astronaut in the NASA program. In 1992, Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel to space, as part of the crew on Space Shuttle Endeavor. She earned a degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University and a doctorate in medicine from Cornell. She did a stint in the Peace Corps and ran her own medical practice before joining NASA in 1987. Jemison completed 127 orbits of Earth during an eight-day research mission. She left NASA in 1993 and founded a company researching applications of technology in daily life. A true Renaissance woman, Jemison is also an accomplished and avid dancer. Today, her company is working on the 100 Year Starship organization, a joint project with NASA and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency studying business plans that would generate private investment for prolonged research into interstellar travel.