Okay, so this is a bit recursive. Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, aparently bored with hardcore science, decided that he was going to build the International Space Station. Made all the more interesting since, you know, he is currently on the International Space Station. Duplicating the engineering feat that is the International Space Station out of legos took far less time than the full-size version did, at about only two hours.
While it may seem silly, NASA and Lego claim that it does actually serve a purpose other than being a fun distraction from the humdrum life of being an astronaut. The model was going to be used as a scale model for demonstrations recorded on video for kids. Says Furukawa,
“Kids like LEGO and when they see LEGO floating in space, I’m sure they are excited. Well, I hope this experience inspires them to make greater efforts to study science and technology.”
The model is nearly 2 feet long, and wouldn’t be able to support itself back on terra firma, thanks to gravity. But up in zero G, the model went together with a snap. Not that there weren’t any problems building the model, however: said Michael Fossum, station commander for Furukawa’s stay,
“There was actually some learning curve to that, believe it or not. LEGOs are an example of something that is a lot of fun on the ground but it can be very frustrating when you have a lot of loose floating pieces.”
The assembly was made even more difficult by the fact that it was built in a transparent, sealed box with gloves. Furukawa had to build the thing while struggling with a floating box, with floating pieces, a floating station, and without the full dexterity of his hands. As saed Furukawa,
“The challenging part was using the thick rubber gloves in the containment system because it made me clumsy in building the LEGO space station. I needed to use the system to put many small pieces of LEGO under control in microgravity.”
In the end, the station didn’t stay assembled for long, leaving its box for only two hours. It turns out that Legos suffer from a flammability problem, something that could be catastrophic on a space station. Which was one of the reasons it was built in a sealed box.
Still, it’s an interesting project, and one that makes NASA seem like a good group of people. As distant and scientific as they are most of the time, they’re still willing to take some time off and play with Legos.