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Lego Saturn V Review: A gem of space engineering

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.
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We built and reviewed the LEGO “NASA Apollo Saturn V” set – back in stores this November, it will be a product you won’t want to miss.

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Lego Saturn V Review Review: A gem of space engineering

 

If there is one thing that remains immortal in the human soul, forever sculpting the pleasure of the senses, it is the pleasure that one feels when you go back to “playing” with bricks. Bricks that have made the history of the world a bit, and that since 1932 have given emotions to young and old (and let’s face it, especially adults can also grasp their “engineering” value). We are obviously talking about the LEGO and his invention of assemblable colored bricks, with which he is able to develop any idea and construction.
We recently unearthed a set that can probably be counted forever in the annals of the company’s history and more generally in the construction of models: we are obviously talking about the NASA Apollo Saturn V set. If you are passionate or amateurs you will have noticed how the product went out of production in a very short time, leaving many people dry-mouthed. However, since this November, the set is back on sale on the official LEGO store.
Although it has a different serial number, it is virtually identical to its first version. We were lucky enough to get hold of the first 2017 series, but the review that we are about to illustrate is also valid for the new collection, then you can use it to evaluate your – possible – first purchase!

His Majesty the Saturn V

Perhaps an introduction of the real rocket may seem trivial and almost out of place: “Who would ever buy a Lego model of something they don’t know?“you are thinking. You may be right, but we must also consider that the curiosity that aroused this set was a lot. So chatted as to attract even the most curious” strangers “to the space world: for this reason we will make a small summary of the why the Saturn V is so important to the history of space exploration, and above all what prompted LEGO to market its replica.
The Saturn V is considered by many – even today – a miracle of aerospace engineering: inaugurated in 1971 after more than a decade of design and construction, the rocket was tall 110 meters and heavy 2970 tons. Used for 13 flights, it never failed its mission (excluding the Apollo 6 mission, considered a “partial success”) and was the only vector capable of bringing Man to the Moon. He did this six times during the Apollo program, but it’s no secret that the most striking milestone was the launch of Apollo 11, which brought the first moon landing in history in 1969.

Packaging and content

The outer packaging is of a fairly sturdy cardboard – nothing so striking – but which returns an exceptional glance thanks to the graphics and color choices on the front and back. Although it is a simple wrapper, many will surely want to exhibit it, and we assure you that it is not a bad idea.

Inside we find a manual and 12 separate packets, containing 1969 bricks, a non-random number. The construction manual is spectacular: from the outside it takes up the slightly worn and old-fashioned aesthetic of the old design files used at NASA. On the cover we have a wire-frame model of the Saturn V, while inside we have the various steps (like every LEGO set), plus some small spaces dedicated to the rocket itself and to the designers who gave life to the project (ps: the cat is not included). In total we have a full-bodied swag of 182 pages which will be our fundamental bible to bring the work to completion.

Difficulties, steps and timing

In these lockdown evenings it will not be difficult to find some time to dedicate yourself to the mythical construction of the LEGO set of the Saturn V and if you are two it will be even easier (and fun). Although the manual is only one, many steps will be “repeated” so you just have to build one or two pieces to memorize what to do and then assemble the required series. For example, the external covers of the various stadiums will generally be four or six, but by building one as an example, you can then dedicate yourself to something else while someone puts together the remaining parts.
obviously the experience is also very enjoyable for those who are alone, and you will certainly feel a greater sense of satisfaction in knowing that it is all the result of your own, exclusive sweat. In general, the construction does not take biblical time to complete but it certainly won’t be easy to complete in a few hours. For the more experienced perhaps it will take less, but it will be difficult to take less than 5-6 hours to arrive at the final result.

The practical pre-performed division of the numbered bags allows you not to be overwhelmed by the considerable amount of parts (some even very small and similar to each other), making the assembly of the various stages rather fluid and continuous. However, some passages, in our opinion, are a bit more delicate than others, requiring greater care in the positioning of the sections.

Precision and the “sacred tool”

The precision of certain steps, as mentioned above, is sometimes greater than in other situations: not all construction is based on blocking simple bricks of different colors and shapes together, but it also requires ball joints and small handles to be locked in special, fairly inaccessible spaces. In the photo on the side, for example, you can see that in the yellow plate there is a hook into which a piece built only later is inserted, following the manual. Although it is nothing complicated, it will be a movement that will require a certain strength and taking the structure trying to find some grip on which to leverage will not be easy (be careful not to lean on pieces not yet well assembled: you could dismantle everything and find yourself repeating many steps).
With a little attention you will get out of all kinds of situations. Then there is a sacred instrument that can never be missing in any LEGO set, a piece that makes the happiness of anyone who makes an assembly mistake: the “Brick Separator“. It is a fairly simple tool: a sort of long lever with different types of hooks, capable of easily separating even the most difficult parts.
It came in very handy, and we assure you that it will be essential to undo your mistakes without having to resort to hairpins or small cutters, with which you could risk ruining the bricks and getting hurt.

Impressive attention to detail

We talked a lot about the “logistics” part of the construction, but what makes the assembly of the Saturn V most spectacular is the fidelity and meticulousness of some details.

Focus on the F-1 engines

Some parts, such as those in the photo, require “original” rotary movements

 

We were literally shocked by some small pieces capable of giving a completely different feel to the construction: let’s take into consideration, for example, the engines. The real Saturn V used several liquid propellant F-1s and those from the LEGO reproduction are almost identical: the exhaust nozzles, heat exchanger and combustion chamber are positioned exactly where they should be, with a yield that makes them beautiful pieces to see, even if they consist of less than a dozen parts.

But what stands out are also the pieces with the prints bearing the words “USA”, “United States” and the reproduction of the American flag: parts that are more unique than rare and that we strongly advise you not to miss.

Although at the end of the manual there is a practical memorandum to order any lost pieces, it has been repeatedly found that some components are not easily available, especially because they belong to such an exclusive set. The details brought into play by LEGO do not stop only at the Saturn V. in itself, but also include small additions: in addition to the three stages of the rocket there are also astronauts (in full scale with the LEGO Saturn V) that you can position at will, the “Eagle” lunar module – as it appeared at the time of landing – and the command module “Columbia” in its final landing form (complete with a life belt!).
Note of credit goes to the unique “brick” that makes up the American flag planted during the first moon landing: a really nice and original idea to recreate a very complex object.

The final yield and the greatness

You will have understood by now that the set is of a certain size. The LEGO Saturn V is a 1: 110 scale reproduction, and is therefore a model exactly 1 meter high. This could pose a problem for those who find it difficult to find a place to display it. Fortunately, thanks to some supports always provided in the package, it is possible to choose whether to keep the rocket in a vertical position or in a horizontal version. Although vertically it displays its dizzying grandeur, it is certainly horizontally that all its quality appears, being also safer from possible bumps. If you really can’t find a large enough place to insert it, there is another solution: dismantle the rocket and put it on display in semi “exploded” form.

Thanks to the engineering behind the design of the LEGO set each stadium – just like its real counterpart – is independent and free to be positioned as you see fit. Sure, it won’t enjoy the overview, but it will still retain its charm.
The solidity of the construction, once completed, is surprising: the sum of the cohesion forces of the various pieces makes the final model a solid and safe block, which suggests its importance even from the rather interesting weight (about 2.4 kg). The disassembly of the various stages is fortunately assisted by special mechanisms that allow quick coupling and release.
Although it is a very feasible maneuver, it will not be an operation that – in our opinion – will be performed frequently: once you have found the ideal position, leave the “monster” to rest to be admired, allowing only occasionally a dismantling of the various stages.

 

LEGO Saturn V
If in this review of ours you have noticed a certain happiness or excitement you have not gone very far from reality: the Lego NASA Apollo Saturn V set has impressed us positively in practically all aspects. The model is presented not only as one of the most spectacular ever created by the house of colored bricks, but is by right a “must have” for any lover of rockets and the history of space exploration. Even the list price seemed perfectly in line with the quality and “range” of the product. Now that the new series is officially back in the LEGO catalog there will no longer be any need to resort to private retailers (“risking” to get hold of it with a small surcharge): it can be yours at the price list of € 119.99. If you are looking for a gift, we assure you that there is no more sensible expense than you can make for such a product: with such quality it is no longer a question of “playing with bricks” but it is, to all intents and purposes , entered the world of true collecting. And then, even if you take it just to play with it, remember that you are never too old to fall in love with LEGO.

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