LEGO Built a Life-Sized Astronaut Model to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

The LEGO Group
The LEGO Group

The LEGO Group is honoring the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in a way that only LEGO can: with a life-sized astronaut model constructed entirely from LEGO blocks.

The 6-foot-3-inch model matches the space suit worn on the Moon by astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on July 21, 1969, down to the American flag patch on his left shoulder. The front of the helmet even mimics the well-known photo of Aldrin standing on the Moon’s surface, with his helmet reflecting his own shadow and fellow Moon-walker Neil Armstrong in the near distance.

The feat took a team of 10 designers and LEGO Master Builders 300 hours and 30,000 LEGO bricks to complete, and you can see it in person on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall as part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Apollo 50 Festival from July 18 to July 20.

Though the astronaut model is already complete, there’s still tons to build—during the festival, you can help Master Builders assemble mosaic backdrops of the Moon and Mars, and you can even lend a hand in the construction of a 20-foot-tall replica of NASA's Space Launch System rocket, the vehicle NASA is developing to potentially use to send humans to Mars in the future.

The LEGO Group is also displaying an 11-foot-tall replica of a rocket at the Ontario Science Centre in Canada from now through September 2. It contains not only an impressive 80,000 bricks, but also built-in lights, sound, and a fog machine to simulate a rocket launch.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Buzz Aldrin walks on the Moon.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It’s all part of a LEGO initiative to inspire a new generation of children to be enthusiastic about—and personally involved in—the future of space exploration. In addition to its brick-based efforts, the company is currently partnering with Scholastic on a program to send 50 kids to NASA Space Camp next year. “We will continue to inspire children to dream about what’s possible and to grow up to pursue STEM careers, said Bettina Inclán, associate administrator for communications at NASA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

Check out LEGO’s space-related collections—featuring Mars exploration, women of NASA, a recreation of the Moon landing, and more—on its online store.

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What Did the Hubble Telescope See on Your Birthday? This NASA Website Will Show You

A 2010 Hubble-captured image of a pillar of gas and dust in a stellar nursery called Carina Nebula.
A 2010 Hubble-captured image of a pillar of gas and dust in a stellar nursery called Carina Nebula.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990, and it has spent the last three decades enriching our understanding of the cosmos more than we ever could’ve imagined. This year, NASA is celebrating the telescope's 30th birthday with another launch: a website that shows you a photo of what the Hubble saw on your birthday.

Because the telescope is exploring space every hour of every day, the images it has captured over the years are both fascinating and varied. You could see a globular star cluster, a dust storm on Mars, or something else entirely. You only need to enter the date and month of your birthday on the site, so the image you get won’t necessarily be from the year you were born—and, if you were born before 1990, it definitely won’t be—but it’s pretty fun to juxtapose how you were spending that particular birthday with how the Hubble was spending it. While your parents were snapping a shot of you blowing out the candles at your eighth birthday party, for example, the Hubble might’ve been snapping a shot of the beautiful auroras around Jupiter’s north pole.

The telescope was first conceived all the way back in 1946 by Yale University astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer, Jr., who published a paper about the possible advantages of having what he called a “large space telescope” in orbit to help astronomers study the galaxies. The project finally got off the ground in the 1970s, and the telescope was designed so that astronauts could periodically upgrade it while still in orbit. Since it first broke through the atmosphere in 1990, the Hubble—named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, who proved the existence of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way—has taught us that the universe is 14 billion years old, that its expansion is speeding up, and so much more.

Unlock your birthday image on the Hubble website here, and check out more stellar photos taken by the Hubble here.

Mark Your Calendars: The Lyrid Meteor Shower Is Coming

Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images
Daniel Reinhardt, Getty Images

If you've grown tired of Zoom meetings, Netflix parties, and livestreams, take a break from staring at your screens to look up at the sky. Starting in April, the Lyrid meteor shower will make its annual appearance. Here's what you need to know to see the spectacle from wherever you're quarantined.

What are the Lyrids?

With written evidence of the event dating back to China around 690 BCE, the Lyrids are one of the oldest meteor showers on record. The light show occurs when our planet passes through the tail of the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, causing its rocky debris to burn up in the atmosphere.

From Earth, the Lyrids appear to originate from the constellation Lyra, which rises above the northeastern horizon after dusk, and the meteor shower borrows its name from the constellation. The Lyrids aren't as active as some other annual showers, usually maxing out at just 20 shooting stars per hour on peak nights. But patient spectators are sometimes rewarded: The event has been known to have outbursts of up to 100 meteors in a single hour. Such surges are rare and random, so all sky-gazers can do is look up at peak times and hope to get lucky.

How to See the Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrids start every year around April 16, but your best chance at seeing them comes later in the month. Late April 21 through early April 22, the meteor shower is predicted to reach peak activity. Following that period, the shooting stars from the shower will become less frequent before finally fizzling out around April 25.

The Lyrids may be easier to spot in 2020 than in recent years. Since businesses closed and people started sheltering in their homes, there has been a slight dip in light and air pollution. Those darker, clearer skies will create better conditions for spotting shooting stars in some parts of the country. As always, waiting until skies are darkest—in the hours around midnight, typically—is the best way to boost your chances of seeing as many meteors as possible.

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