The fifth LEGO Cuusoo model selected was the MSL Curiosity Rover designed by Stephen Pakbaz. The original MOC was promoted via many space related forums and rocketed to 10,000 votes on Cuusoo. The fact that it is a very impressive model, at the right size and price, educational, and of course the perfect timing with the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars, pretty much guaranteed it's selection IMHO. I have been lucky enough to receive a pre-release copy for review from the LEGO Community Team.
The Mars Curiosity Rover MOC is the most highly viewed MOC on Rebrickable, thanks to the heavy promotional work done by Stephen. It was featured on many large science/space related sites and news aggregators such as Space.com, MSN, BoingBoing, Reddit, Slashdot, etc. Since Rebrickable hosted the building instructions, I had a very interesting time trying to keep my poor little server up and running during it's rise to 10,000 votes!
Stephen submitted his Cuusoo project way back in 2011, but with the Mars landing scheduled for August 2013 waited until then to promote it. With all the press coverage of the mission, and with Stephen being a JPL engineer who helped build the rover, the LEGO model became highly viral and he was able to rocket up to 10,000 votes very quickly.
From that point it has taken 6 months to get to the official model release. During that time, the LEGO design and management team had to consider all the factors in releasing a product. From the Cuusoo page, this includes "playability, safety, and fit with the LEGO brand". As you will see below, the changes they made were very minimal which I think is a huge compliment to Stephen!
You can see from this comparison that 62% of the parts in this set are in the MOC.
If you haven't seen them already, be sure to also check out Stephen's other Space MOCs.
The box is the same as those used in the Architecture series - i.e. black, with a hinged lid so you don't have to tear the cardboard to open it. The instructions are also black, with plenty of information on the Curiosity Rover inside. While it looks cool, I'm not really a fan of the instructions printed on black paper. It throws out the colours for me, making it even harder than usual to distinguish e.g. black from dark bluish grey.
This set has 294 pieces (the box says 295 but I don't count turntable plates as two parts). There are a lot of small parts in use here, used to provide all the little details on the rover, as well as to make some interesting joins. There are no new parts or colours in this set.
Take a look at the full 21104 set inventory here.
After building the floor, it starts with a fairly basic and simple main rover body. The interesting stuff comes next with the various appendages. Other than a few minor changes, the whole build follows the MOC very closely. There are some rather unusual techniques used to join the parts which I'm a little surprised were kept as I don't recall seeing them used in any other official set. For example in the "head", we have a claw and a half-bush attaching to a pneumatic T-piece which is poked through a hollow stud of some upside bricks.
The Rocker-Bogie suspension system is a design that keeps all six wheels on the ground at all times, critical for a stable Martian laboratory platform. In this model, the wheels are connected to the center swivel point via ball/socket joints. In the MOC, it used the weaker pneumatic/claw/beam combination, so I think this is an improvement.
The addition of the rocky terrain helps demonstrate the capability of the rover, and provides some inspiration for play :) I could actually stack the bricks four high and all wheels would still stick to the ground. This matches the theoretical capability of the rover which can traverse obstacles twice the diameter of the wheels.
I think this is a great looking model with some interesting building techniques. It is actually playable too as long as you handle it by the main body or the wheels. The head mast is probably the weakest connection, but who picks anything up by the head?
I'm a space nut, so may be biased, but this model will be taking a permanent place on my desk :)
The set will be available from the LEGO online shop from 1st January 2014 at US$29.99.
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