The Reg builds official Lego Artemis and Milky Way sets

Raking a talon through piles of plastic parts in search of holiday fun

Hands-On Lego has added plastic brick representations of NASA's Space Launch System and the Milky Way Galaxy to its range. We had a go at building both to see if they merit a holiday investment.

lego milky way and artemis

As seen in the brochure – click to enlarge (Image courtesy: Lego)

The Artemis Space Launch System is part of Lego's Icons range and consists of 3,601 pieces used to build the rocket and the structure required to launch it. Whereas the mighty Saturn V set made the rocket the star of the show, the launch tower and platform of the Artemis set are very much front and center and account for most of the build time and components.

Artemis SLS Lego set

Closeup on detail of Artemis set – click to enlarge

The designer, Hans Burkhard Schlömer, explained the thinking behind the set. In an email exchange, he told The Register, "Each set has its own focus and story to tell … The Lego NASA Artemis Space Launch System, including the tower and launch platform, allowed us to provide a representation of the launch system as it appears on the day of lift-off.

"The Saturn V set was designed to celebrate the historic Apollo missions, and we felt that the rocket itself was the most iconic element to highlight."

However, it is difficult not to compare with the Saturn V set. While not small by any means, the approximately 70cm height of the set, including the launch platform, is quite some way from the 130cm you'll need to piece together if you decide to build a Saturn V and add a crawler-transporter, launch pad, and tower. Lego, of course, only ever officially released the Saturn V – not the launch pad or tower.

Schlömer explained the scale: "The scale is chosen to best represent the object while considering factors like playability, displayability, and the overall building experience.

"The scale for the Lego NASA Artemis Space Launch System was selected to capture the intricate details of the Space Launch System while maintaining a size that is practical for Lego fans to build and display."

Artemis SLS Lego set built

Artemis SLS Lego set pictured next to Saturn V build – click to enlarge

We're not sure about the intricate details – Lego enthusiasts have been quick to come up with modifications to improve the accuracy of the model. It is also quite easy to pick holes in some of the design choices when compared to, for example, some very impressive Saturn Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) community-made designs. But, as Schlömer said, it is also important to consider factors other than whether Lego space enthusiasts will like it.

Artemis SLS Lego set base

Artemis close-up – click to enlarge

That said, while the scale and some accuracy issues can be put to one side, the approach to stickers with this set seems illogical. Some parts are pre-printed (hurrah!), while others require fiddly stickers to be applied. Sometimes, the sticker's white does not match the white of the plastic part, which can look jarring.

According to Schlömer, "The decision to use stickers allows for more detailed decoration" – which would be a reasonable explanation were it not for the fact that some booster segments are pre-printed and some are not. Applying the stickers was by far the worst part of the build, adding unnecessary stress to the proceedings.

Artemis SLS Lego set built

The finished product – click to enlarge

Niggles aside, it is a satisfying build overall and took approximately nine hours from start to finish, including tears and swearing over the stickers. The set is also very playable, with umbilicals that can be swung from the rocket and boosters and stages that can be separated. The tower and set as a whole is also considerably more robust than the knock-off Saturn V LUT we built in 2020, and no glue was required in its construction – although we would recommend some tweezers and window cleaner when attaching the stickers.

Greebling around the galaxy

While this writer had a lot of fun building the Artemis set, the build did not generate the same number of questions from the child of the household as the Saturn V or Space Shuttle sets. A large reason for that was the arrival of the Lego Milky Way set – a 65cm x 40cm celebration of colorful bricks representing the eponymous galaxy, replete with a "You are here" label.

Greebling is a way of using many smaller Lego parts with a larger whole to add texture and detail. With the Milky Way set, Lego has gone all-in on the technique and created something that is both aesthetically pleasing when viewed from a few meters away and fun to look at close up.

milky way painting build bound to be a pain in the proverbial to dust

The Milky Way painting build is beautiful, but bound to be a pain in the proverbial when you're dusting – click to enlarge

The set conveys a real sense of fun with the multitude of small and colorful parts that make up the galaxy. It comprises 3,091 pieces – many of which are fiddly and easily lost. However, the nature of the artwork means that it doesn't matter if you make the odd mistake or two along the way.

It is, of course, wonderfully inaccurate. However, it is undeniably attractive, although the style could well be divisive. Dusting it will also be a pain – the multitude of pieces providing texture and detail will require more than a once-over.

The set is listed as being for builders aged 18 and over, although it isn't a particularly challenging one. My 12-year-old daughter had no problem with it. The multitude of colors and parts kept up the interest over the days – a weekend should do it – needed to put the set together. On the other hand, the Artemis set became a little repetitive – particularly when constructing the tower.

The downside of all this excitement is the price. At £169.99 in the UK (and $199.99 in US, €199.99 in Europe), the Milky Way set is not cheap. The Artemis set will cost you £219.99 ($259.99 in US, €259.99 in Europe). A hunt around sites such as Rebrickable will turn up designs for the latter that are arguably more accurate, or at a different scale. However, acquiring the parts could get expensive quickly – although "expensive" could be applied equally to the real SLS.

The SLS set is fun to build and lends itself far more to customization than the Milky Way set — there are already Kerbalesque suggestions in the house that perhaps the SLS needs a longer tank and more boosters for a Lego mission to Mars. The end product of the Milky Way set is more artistic and arguably more fun to build, but it is unlikely to be repurposed in quite the same way. ®

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