LEGO 'Women of NASA' Set Honors Trailblazers in STEM

By: Jesslyn Shields  | 

Nancy Roman NASA
The late Nancy Roman was an American astronomer who became the first female executive at NASA. LEGO Group

Who among us doesn't know an 8-year-old girl (or 47-year-old woman) that has dreamt of going to space? Danish toy brick icon maker LEGO gets it and thinks one way to help get girls psyched about STEM is with the right LEGO sets. That's why it launched its Women of NASA set. It's based on real-life female space pioneers.

But what's even cooler is this set was created and chosen by LEGO fans. Each year, LEGO accepts submissions from the public, inviting anybody with a concept to submit ideas for a new LEGO set to be produced and sold commercially (with the designer receiving 1 percent of the profit from sales). The LEGO Ideas website runs a public contest for each new round of submissions, and fans from around the world vote on their favorite ideas. Once a project has 10,000 votes, it passes along to the LEGO Ideas review board, which chooses the winning concept for that review cycle.

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The themes of projects always vary: the Women of NASA proposal was chosen over a red Lamborghini, a "Little House on the Prairie" log cabin, a vehicle from the comedy film "Spaceballs," and an homage to the first computer built by Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage.

The member of the LEGO public who proposed and designed the Women of NASA set is Maia Weinstock, a science writer and LEGO enthusiast who used the LEGO Ideas contest to recognize some of the women who have made NASA's space exploration possible — all of whom struggled to gain acceptance in a field historically dominated by white men.

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The LEGO set proposed by Maia Weinstock includes accessories to go along with the characters.
Maia Weinstock/Flickr

"This proposed set celebrates five notable NASA pioneers and provides an educational building experience to help young ones and adults alike learn about the history of women in STEM," wrote Weinstock in her LEGO Ideas proposal.

The women commemorated in this set include:

  • Margaret Hamilton, the computer scientist who developed the idea of computer software as we know it today, and created the flight software in the Apollo missions to the moon.
  • Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician (played by Taraji P. Henson in last year's film "Hidden Figures") who calculated the trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs, including Apollo 11.
  • Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
  • Nancy Grace Roman, one of the first female NASA executives, often called "The Mother of the Hubble Telescope" for her enormous contributions to that project.
  • Mae Jemison, who in 1992 became the first African-American woman in space.

These tiny space ladies come with a display frame, but also vignettes showing the reams of code that landed the first man on the moon, a tiny Hubble Telescope, mini rocket boosters and other cool stuff.

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Originally Published: Mar 2, 2017

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