The folks at NASA threw a cute little curveball at the pre-launch briefing for the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft today: They announced that three specially made LEGO minifigures would be flying to the outer solar system along with the spacecraft, which is scheduled to lift off Friday from the Kennedy Space Center. The three figures represent Galileo Galilei, who used his early telescopes to study Jupiter and its moons some four centuries ago; the Roman goddess Juno, namesake of the Juno craft; and the Roman god Jupiter. (In case you've forgotten your ancient mythology, Juno is the equivalent of the Greek Hera, and Jupiter is the same as Zeus.) Unlike normal plastic LEGOs, these figs were molded out of a special aluminum blend that should withstand the harsh launch and interplanetary environments the figs will experience in the upcoming days and years on their journey to the Jovian system.
If you follow along with my blog or Twitter feed, you know that I'm a big LEGO fan, especially when brick creations help folks get excited about science and technology. It's heartening to know that LEGO and NASA have made a strong commitment to one another within the past year, since our nation's future rests on our inspiring today's children to become tomorrow's mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. Can't wait to see what's next! ∞