March is Women’s History Month. To celebrate that, LEGO announced that its Women of NASA set will be released in late 2017 or early 2018. LEGO fans of all ages, feminists, space aficionados, and parents are delighted to see the Lego figurines, or minifigs. The Women of NASA set consists of five minifigs. It honors two astronauts, one mathematician, one computer scientist, one astronomer, one physician, and two people of color (POC).
- Mae Jemison, astronaut, physician, ST:TNG guest star
- Katherine Johnson, mathematician, whose story was told in Hidden Figures
- Margaret Hamilton, software engineer
- Sally Ride, astronaut, physicist, professor
- Nancy Grace Roman, astronomer, former chief of NASA’s Astronomy and Relativity Programs
— Maia Weinstock (@20tauri) February 28, 2017
The picture in the tweet above shows them, left to right, Margaret Hamilton, Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, Nancy Grace Roman, and Mae Jemison.
LEGO accepts submissions from fans for ideas for new sets. The Women of NASA was suggested by Maia Weinstock, a science writer who wanted to encourage more girls to explore STEM classes and more boys to take female scientists for granted. Ms. Weinstock first had to get 10,000 votes of support from the public before she could submit her idea to the Lego Ideas competition. Then she had to beat some very tough competition: Voltron, a Large Hadron Collider, the Addams Family mansion, a Little House on the Prairie set, and a pair of minifigs of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage.
Nancy Grace Roman with Hubble Space Telescope
Ms. Weinstock called having her design picked a “dream come true.” In addition to a frame to display the Women of NASA minifigs, there will be settings for them consisting of a mini space shuttle, a Hubble Space Telescope, instruments for calculating trajectories, and a newspaper with a headline announcing men walked on the moon.
Sally Ride and Mae Jemison with shuttle
Lego Marketing Manager Lise Dydensborg announced, “We are really excited to be able to introduce Maia’s Women of NASA set for its fun and educational value as well as its build and play experience.”
LEGO has received some complaints recently about how gender-divided their toys are. Where once brightly colored LEGO blocks were marketed for girls and boys, lately some parents have complained about LEGO selling pastel Friends and Elves to girls and selling bright or dark colored adventure sets — space, pirates, superheroes, you know, the fun stuff — to boys. In 2014 a seven year old girl wrote a letter to LEGO complaining that there were far more boy minifigs than girls, and the girls did boring things whilst the boys had adventures.
“All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.”
Any fannish parent knows the difficulty of finding female SF or superheroine action figures. We all remember #WheresRey, #WheresGamora, #WheresBlackWidow, etc. However, with the LEGO Women of NASA set, LEGO seems to be taking a giant step forward for diversity. We won’t have to ask #WheresKatherineJohnson.
Katherine Johnson with 1960s computers
George Takei tweeted his approval:
“From Hidden Figures to Lego figures, love that @LegoNASAWomen will soon be inspiring little girls everywhere.” At SCIFI.radio, we hope girls and boys will both be playing with the LEGO Women of NASA set.
Bridget Landry is a planetary scientist and has worked for NASA and JPL in spacecraft operations for more than 20 years. She has worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, the joint US-French oceanographic Earth-orbiter Topex, the (wildly successful!) Mars Pathfinder project, and the Cassini mission to Saturn. Ms. Landry was also a team member of the Dawn mission, which began a year-long orbital mission at the asteroid Vesta in mid-2011 and moved on to rendezvous with and orbit the asteroid Ceres in 2015. She had this to say when we asked:
“I love them! Can’t wait to order some! A great tribute to some awesome women.”