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NASA Sent Legos Called 'Legonauts' to Burn in Jupiter

Jun 14, 2016 02:34 AM EDT
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Three LEGO mini figurines made of aluminum is about to reach Jupiter. The legonauts are aboard the solar-powered spacecraft which is 24 days away from reaching its destination. The LEGO figures were made as part of NASA and LEGOs Bricks in Space project.
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Three Lego mini figures called "Legonauts" are Jupiter-bound aboard NASA's Juno spacecraft.

The legonauts hitched hiked the Juno spacecraft not just for fun. NASA and LEGO specifically placed them there to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

NASA's Juno mission was launched in 2011 to investigate the origin and composition of Jupiter, and is 24 days away from reaching its target destination. Unknown to many, the unmanned solar-powered spacecraft has its own passengers, the three legonauts patterned after iconic characters and were safely stored aboard the spacecraft.

The custom-made LEGOs are made of aluminum which, according to Juno mission lead investigator, were made of the same material as the spacecraft.

The set was designed as part of the LEGO Bricks in Space project, which is a joint outreach and educational program of NASA and LEGO group, according to LEGO's official website. The two LEGO figurines represent Roman gods Jupiter and Juno, the name of the destination planet and the spacecraft according to a report by TechTimes. While the remaining one was made after the image of Galileo Galilei.


The three characters were chosen because of their distinct characteristics. Jupiter, from the Greek mythology, uses a veil of clouds to hide himself. While Juno is seen holding a magnifying glass which symbolizes its search for the truth. Galileo Galilei, which is made holding a telescope, was considered because of his important discoveries about Jupiter, including the planet's moons.

According to NASA, the figurines were sealed under a thermal protection case.


Only one more set of the three legonauts remains on Earth, which is now the property of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL. NASA's Juno mission lead, Scott Bolton, came up with the idea of including the figurines in the mission. "It was just me making a cold call," Bolton said in an interview.

According to a report, the remaining set will be present at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) when Juno arrives and attempts to enter Jupiter's orbit this July 4. 

After that, the Earth-borne legonauts will visit schools and museums to further inspire children to study about space, engineering and mathematics inspiring kids and adults alike.


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