article headline

BrickJournal Reviews the NASA Apollo Saturn V 21309!

May 21, 2017 10:23 pm
by Joe Meno
more photos

21309 - NASA Apollo Saturn V
Available June 1, 2017.
Ages 14+. 1,969 pieces.
$119.99 USD

rocketWhat do you do when a model is too big to take a pic of? Use a previous pic. Sorry.
July 20, 1969 is a date that is historic. On that day, two astronauts landed a spindly craft on the moon while a third watched in orbit overhead. TV footage of the astronauts stepping on the lunar surface was beamed to a worldwide audience.
I was only 4 years old. While I don’t remember that day from way back when, I did get interested in the space program. I learned about it from the books I read at school and got from the library, and from one LEGO set: the Moon Lander.
That set was simple compared to the sets out now. The lander was blue and made of basic bricks and slopes. There were no minfigures then - they were created a couple of years later - but there were larger figures in the discontinued Homemaker scale. That set was simple, but it encouraged me and inspired me to build and learn. I built other spaceships and underwater ships (I was fascinated by Jacques Cousteau as well), but this set has a special place in my heart.
The box back is one nice graphic. 
Flash forward to May 2017. The next LEGO Ideas set, the Apollo Saturn V (21309) arrives on my doorstep for review. And after a lengthy build session, it’s clear that this set will become one of my favorites.
Instruction book - normal book size and nicely done!
The set is 1969(!) parts and stands over 3 feet tall. It’s a pretty accurate build in approximately 1/110 scale, which makes it taller than the 1/144 scale Saturn V model I built in junior high - and that was big! The LEGO version has a lot of nice details, including scaled models of the Lunar Module, Service Module, and Command Module at splashdown, as well as micro figures of the astronauts (I got 4 of the figures, so it’s the crew plus Tom Hanks, I guess). There are some compromises that were made for the set, so there is no interstage ring between the first and second stage - it’s a solid link. 
page spread
One of the pages showing the mission of the rocket. 
The set can be displayed vertically or horizontally - you can build stands for the rocket to display on its side. With the stands, the smaller models, and separate stages, there’s a lot of stuff in this set. The instructions are well-done too, with some information on the Apollo missions to set the stage for building. After that, there’s a page for the LEGO fan designers (Valerie Roche and Felix Stiessen) and then the LEGO designers (Michael Psiaki, Carl Merriam, and Austin Carlson) letting them talk about the model.
bagsThere are 12 bags of parts - 6 of them are for the first stage!!
The build itself is a day-long build. It took me about 6 hours to complete it. Design-wise, the rocket is built rugged. Each stage has a built core which is then ‘skinned' with a layer of plates and curved slopes. Making the outer layer stud out allowed for more detail to be added and increased the structural strength of the stages. Each stage also had four strips of space between the curved sections that were filled with ‘detail strips.’ These were held in place with clips and Mixel joints, which allowed the strips to angle correctly and quickly. Clips were also used to attach the stages together, and they were strong enough to allow a person to pick up the rocket by the body without it splitting. The engines and escape rocket are secured to the model with embedded Technic axles, so they won’t easily fall off.
Top of second stage, showing the clips in red that attach to the third stage. Also, the stage tapers using white wedge elements and black round slope plates on hinges. It's a great effect, however, the hinges are the weakest part of the build - the panels can fall off if pushed too hard.

second stage

Bottom of second stage, showing the five engines. The dark gray plates with handles attach to the clips in the first stage...

first stage

seen in red here.
With no stickers to place in this set. it’s a straightforward build from beginning to end. The instructions start from bottom to top and along the way, you’ll get an idea of how massive the rocket was. As relatively simple build design (it’s a tube with a point and no wings) there is a bit of repetition on the rocket sides as you go along. Read ahead to see what repeats when you build - you can build a little faster if you build repeated assemblies as one group, as opposed to one at a time. Also pay attention attaching panels to the rocket bodies - there are a couple of steps where the placement isn’t as clear as you would think because of the angle of the step.
So where do those assemblies really line up? I missed by a stud.

Third stage
Built third stage and upper body.

third stage
Just the third stage.

second stage
Second stage.  

Third stage.
As you finish the set, the stages are snapped together. The lander and splashdown capsule are separate, but can be incorporated into the rocket if desired. One minor issue is how the Service Module is attached to the third stage fairing under it. A technic axle is used for keeping the nozzle of the Service Module in place, but the gap to the nozzle and the module is too pronounced. There is also no nameplate for the set, which is odd. 

upper stages
You can see the nozzle gap in this pic. 
first stage

A look at the bottom of the first stage showing the rocket engines. Nice modeling!

To the moon!!
After building, I took a good look at the set and the following questions came across my mind:
What can I build for this?
What would the Space Shuttle look like in the same scale? It would be about a third of the height.
What about a gantry and crawler for this?
Could I build other rockets? How about a rocket garden?
Could I build Skylab?
Could I build…
Well, it happened again. 
A set inspired me.
Thanks to Valerie Roche and Felix Stiessen for submitting this set and Michael Psiaki, Carl Merriam, and Austin Carlson for designing the set!
Many thanks to the LEGO Group for providing the set for review - 
It will be available for sale directly through LEGO® beginning June 1, 2017 via, LEGO® Stores or via phone:
US Contact Center             1-800-453-4652
CA (English) Contact Center         1-800-453-4652
CA (French) Contact Center         1-877-518-5346
European Contact Center         00-800-5346-1111