You'll soon have five new characters to place near your space-inspired Lego structures. The toymaker is developing a new set featuring five history-making women who made great contributions to NASA's space program. "Women of NASA" was created by MIT News editor Maia Weinstock, who submitted it to the Lego Ideas competition. Weinstock's entry garnered the 10,000 votes needed for Lego to consider manufacturing it, and the company has recently announced that it has already begun taking steps to make it a real set people can buy.
The five women are (from left to right in the image above):
- Margaret Hamilton: a computer scientist who developed the on-board flight software used for the Apollo missions to the moon. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year for being a coding pioneer.
- Katherine Johnson: a physicist and mathematician who manually calculated trajectories and launch windows for many early NASA missions, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the movie Hidden Figures.
- Sally Ride: an astronaut and physics professor who became the first American woman in space and the third overall, meaning she had to endure questions like: "Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?" She also remains the youngest American astronaut to ever travel to space at age 32. In 2001, she founded a company that created entertaining science programs and publications for elementary and middle school girls.
- Nancy Grace Roman: is known as the "Mother of Hubble" for her work on the telescope and one of the first female NASA executives. She developed NASA's astronomy research program and was involved in the development and launch of six other space observatories and satellites
- Mae Jemison: a medically-trained astronaut who became the first African-American woman to travel to space and orbit the planet. After a brief NASA career, she founded her own tech company and became a professor.
Weinstock told BBC that her purpose is to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM: "I hope it sets a new example for both girls and boys," she said. "Girls, in that they can and should be engineers, scientists, and mathematicians, and boys, in that they internalise at an early age that these careers are for everyone, not only men."
Lego is now finalizing the characters' design. The company has no exact release date yet, but it expects to start selling the "Women of NASA" set in late 2017 or early 2018.