In 2017, seven and a half months after its selection, Lego unveiled a set of minifigures celebrating NASA women researchers and explorers, due to go on sale just in time for the holiday season.
The toy set follows up on a suggestion from science writer Maia Weinstock, but one of Weinstock’s nominees wasn’t included: NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose life story figures prominently in the Oscar-nominated movie “Hidden Figures” and the book on which it was based.
The four women getting the Lego treatment are:
- Margaret Hamilton, now 81, who developed the onboard flight software for the Apollo missions while working at MIT under contract with NASA in the 1960s.
- Mae Jemison, who became the first African-American woman in space in 1992 during a science mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. She turned 61 on Tuesday.
- Sally Ride (1951-2012), who was the first American woman in space thanks to a 1983 mission on the space shuttle Challenger, and went on to create educational programs focused on getting girls into science.
- Nancy Grace Roman, 92, an astronomer and NASA executive who is known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her role in planning the Hubble Space Telescope.
The proposal bubbled up through a Lego program that solicits ideas for customized toy figures and then turns some of the top ideas into actual playsets.
Lego said it looked into including Johnson, who helped work out the trajectories for key NASA spaceflights such as John Glenn’s history-making orbital trip in 1962 but couldn’t get the necessary permission.
“In order for us to move forward with a partner we need to obtain approval from all key people, which was not possible in this case,” the company said in a statement cited by Gizmodo and The Verge. “We naturally fully respect this decision.”
In a tweet, Weinstock indicated that Johnson and her family decided against giving their approval. “Each woman / her family had to sign off on being depicted in the final product. 4 of the original 5 chose to participate,” she wrote.
“I’m extremely proud to know that the final product will help children and adults around the world learn about some of the pioneering scientists and engineers who helped make the U.S. space program what it is today,” Weinstock said.
“Of course, it would have been fantastic to see the final product include my original frame and also the fourth vignette,” she continued. “But my overall vision is still very much alive with Lego’s final design, and the builds have been beautifully enhanced thanks to the creative team in Billund — where, I might add, the lead designers on this project were all women!”
We wanted to share this great step forward by the Lego Company during this special 50th Anniversary month of the Apollo Moon Landing to help you inspire the young women of your life.
The set is on sale now at a retail price of $24.99.