Image: LEGO 369-piece Hayabusa asteroid spacecraft
LEGO’s 369-piece Hayabusa asteroid spacecraft is the only the second fan-made model to be produced as a commercial LEGO building set through the Danish company’s CUUSOO website.
updated 3/3/2012 4:41:09 PM ET 2012-03-03T21:41:09

The world's first spacecraft to collect samples from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth, Japan's Hayabusa mission probe, is now available as a LEGO toy thanks to a homemade model and its thousands of fans.

The Denmark-based LEGO Group announced Saturday that its Hayabusa 369-piece building set is now on sale in Japan. A limited number of the sets will be made available worldwide exclusively through LEGO's online store at a date to be decided for later this year. The model retails for $49.

The LEGO asteroid probe began as a fan-made model that was then posted to the LEGO CUUSOO website. Originally limited to Japan, LEGO CUUSOO allows fans of LEGO to share their ideas for new products and to collect votes to make those ideas become a reality. The site went global last October.

  1. Space news from
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

Hayabusa, which is only the second CUUSOO model to be made into a LEGO toy set, was built by Daisuke Okubo. After receiving more than 1,000 votes from other fans on the website, Okubo's proposed model was then refined by LEGO designer Melody Louise Caddick for its commercial release. [ Gallery: LEGO Hayabusa Asteroid Probe ]

Designer details
"I was interested in the asteroid explorer Hayabusa first from a technological perspective but then also by the fact that Japan had achieved a world first with this mission," Okubo said in a note included with the model's building instructions. "I hope the Hayabusa story will reach an even greater number of people now."

Okubo's Hayabusa recreated in LEGO many of the real spacecraft's details. The set includes the sampler horn, which guided particles from the asteroid's surface into the main body of the probe; the ion engine that propelled Hayabusa through space; and the sample return capsule, the only part that returned to Earth. Not all the spacecraft's features were possible, though.

"Trying to recreate a real-life object such as the Hayabusa spacecraft in LEGO bricks can also be difficult," Caddick writes in the building guide, which also gives information about the real mission. "For example, with the elements we have available, it was not possible to make the solar panels fold together and then fold down at the sides. We also needed to ensure stability so that when you build the model, it will maintain its shape as much as possible."

One detail that is included with the model was crucial to the Hayabusa mission's success. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi is included with the toy as a LEGO Minifigure.

Clad in a blue pinstripe suit and yellow tie, the miniature Kawaguchi features two faces: an everything-is-going-well-with-the-mission happy face, as well as a more disturbed look for the high-tension moments that came during Hayabusa's mission.

Asteroid mission and model
The real Hayabusa launched in May 2003 and reached asteroid Itokawa two years later. First orbiting the small near-Earth asteroid, Hayabusa collected data about the shape, spin, topography, color, composition, density and history of the rocky planetoid. In November 2005, it landed on Itokawa and collected samples in the form of tiny grains of asteroid material, which were returned to Earth aboard the spacecraft in June 2010.

The LEGO Hayabusa model is the second CUUSOO model to be produced out of the three chosen to date. The first, the Shinkai 6500 submarine, went on sale in Japan in February 2011. A set based on the computer game Minecraft is the first user-sponsored project to be approved on the global version of LEGO CUUSOO.

In its current version, ideas shared on the CUUSOO website supported by 10,000 votes are examined by a LEGO jury to ensure the models meet the company's standards of safety and playability and support the LEGO brand. Consumers who have their ideas chosen for production earn one percent of the total net sales of the product.

See for more photographs of LEGO's Hayabusa asteroid spacecraft model.

Follow collectSPACE on Facebook and Twitter @ collectSPACE and editor Robert Pearlman @ robertpearlman. Copyright 2011 All rights reserved.

© 2013 All rights reserved. More from

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments