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Lunar Farside MASCON Explorer
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Three decades after the ill-fated "Classic" Lunar Base Zeta-1 ceased transmitting for the last time, the Space Authority returns to Luna at last!
About this creation
This time, the mysteries of the Lunar Farside will be explored by a diverse team of civilian experts backed by the latest technology.

The foremost question to be answered: What is behind - or beneath - the MASCONs: unexplained concentrations of excess gravitation.

This is my entry in the 500-part category of the "Put your brick where your mouth is!" competition at classic-space.com. So imagine yourself finding this as a real set on a store shelf, in a box priced around $50. Inside are 500 parts that let you build all this:


MISSION PROFILE:
Lunar Farside MASCON Expedition


The Crew




Petr Anton ("Pa") Asterov.
Last surviving Cosmofig of the Red Team on the (ill-fated!) Classic base. Space technology expert, author of many books, both technical manuals like "Zero Pressure Survival Skills" and Lunar tell-alls like "High Anxiety in Low Gravity".

Steven Starn.
Lunologist, author of "Dark Face of the Moon" and "MASCON: The Lunar Enigma".

Lilana Swift.
Pilot and Explorer, author of "How I Nearly Lost Each Limb".



Jill
Mascon Mission Mascot. Mastiff. First dog on the moon.

Nasal-Olfactory Spectrum Extender (NOSE) built into helmet allows Jill to track trace minerals, gases, and even gravity fluctuations by "smell" on the airless Lunar surface.

The Hardware



The Cislunar Express




Assembled in space, the MASCON Explorer is big enough to carry the crew and their equipment to the moon in unprecedented comfort.

It's too big to build at minifig scale, so the included version is microscale. It has a display stand with a mission patch sticker.

MEL - Mobile Exploration Lander



"Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space!"

The MEL is an evolution of lunar lander technology with exciting new capabilities.

Landing legs adjust to terrain on landing. In landing configuration, the wheel-pads can rotate the entire lander in place - to orient the rear hatch relative to the sun after landing, for example.



After landing, JACC or a simple crowbar can reconfigure the wheel-pads for rover mode. Then the entire lander becomes an enclosed roving science lab. Explorers ride in comfort right to where the science is.



The computer station is compact but functional.



The flight controls are intuitive to any pilot.



Alternately, the landing stage can easily be separated from the cabin by JACC. The cabin can then be used as a stationary base.



The cabin stage has emergency supplies of air and water, with taps both inside and outside.



Because it has two hatches and a pressure regulator, it can be used as an airlock to another structure, such as a lunar rock cave.



While the cabin stage is in this HELP mode (Habitat / Entry Lock, Pressurized) the landing stage is easily converted (with included crowbars) to ROBERT, a Rolling Open-Bed Exploration Rover-Tug. This can even fly by judicious use of the steering thrusters.



(Use of the main landing rocket for low-level flying is not advised. Without the mass of the HELP module, the main rocket's thrust might accidentally put the user in orbit. However, ROBERT can easily be attached to other large modules or cargo to move them moderate distances, even into orbit, with the main rocket.)


JACC - Jointed Autonomous Crane/Carrier



An explorer's best friend. (Sorry, Jill!)

A walking flatbed truck and crane and repair robot.
Generous cargo bed. Tailgate folds down as access ladder.



JACC's tool wheel can perform many delicate repairs automatically.



Powerful cargo crane can grab and lift almost anything. (Well, some things.)
Legs can walk on any terrain. (Well, some terrain.)


JACC and Jill fetch an oxygen tank and a hydrogen tank.


Magnetic cargo chains and "JACC handles" can be attached to JACC's cargo bed, or to equipment to be moved.

Tractor MOWER




Remote-controlled, solar-powered tractor has 1,001 uses on the moon.



Standard trailer is a self-contained resource extraction plant: a MOWER (Moon Ore Water Extraction Rover).



Raw lunar rock poured into the hopper is processed to extract useful trace chemicals including water. The parabolic solar collector powers the extraction; surplus power is stored or can be tapped by utility lines. Leftover Lunar Slag is processed into interlocking bricks, which can be used to build solar storm shelters.

(A spare stanchion is provided to hold up the towing end of the trailer when the tractor is otherwise engaged.)

Lunar Solarium



Jill is not permitted in the solarium.

Stay sane away from your Mother Planet! This compact solarium provides a small patch of grass and one flowering plant, the minimum requirements for a "yard" according to Space Authority researchers.

This token sign of life and civilization thriving on the infinite hostile airless wasteland (with only a minimum of technological support to keep it thriving) should provide a crucial morale boost for homesick explorers on the Lunar Farside, where there can never be a glimpse of home in the sky.

MISSION STATUS




The MASCON mystery deepens when Jill leads the explorers to a shattered tower of rock encrysted with strange crystals and emitting unusual gravity patterns.



At last, the gravity source is revealed within the rock: an alien device of unknown origin, unknown age, and unknown uses.



The explorers extract the alien artifact and prepare to study it. What secrets will they discover? What powers will they unleash?

Designer's Notes and Acknowledgements


This set is in a new (unofficial) theme I call "Return to Space". It's a sort of a sequel to Classic Space, but also to the real Apollo missions; it's intended to be a semi-realistic look at how a near-future Apollo follow-up mission might be configured. But cooler.

Crew
- The brown classic smiling minifig head is very rare. There has never been one in a Space set! It's about time, don't you think?

MEL
- Inspired by NASA's LER.
- This set is partly a personal response to three official sets: I was disappointed that the minifig-scale LEM in set 7468 didn't have an interior...and the old 6901 Mobile Lab looks too much like an elephant. But really, the MEL's capabilities are most similar to the All-Terrain Vehicle of set 6927. You could consider this a drastic reimagining of that set, one of my all-time favorites.

JACC
- Partly inspired by this tractor-crane MOC
- And partly by this logging machine.
- Gas tanks inspired by this MOC.

Jill
- I don't like stickers, especially stickers across two parts, but I couldn't find any other way to keep Jill's helmet on.
- The idea of a dog with a space helmet came from a Tintin comic, among other sources. I have a vague feeling I might have even seen one in a MOC, long ago, but if so, I no longer have the link.

Solarium
- The idea of a sanity-saving solarium for space travellers is from a Ray Bradbury story, though it's not like this one.
- The dog and flowers were free bonus parts in a Bricklink order. Bricklink rocks!
- I used Photoshop to give this "set" a 4x4 round plate in Green. This part doesn't currently exist in this color.

Mysterious MASCON Mountain / The Anomaly
- Inspired by the alien artifact buried on the moon in 2001.
- I wanted to try out BURP and LURP pieces. I like crystals.
- I used Photoshop to give this "set" a 5-point crystal in Transparent Clear. This part doesn't currently exist in this color, alas.




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By Dan Efran
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Added May 19, 2010
 


LEGO models my own creation MOCpages toys shop Lunar Farside MASCON ExplorerSpace and science fiction


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