17 May 2017

21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V

Blast off with Elspeth De Montes as she reviews the latest LEGO® Ideas set. Elspeth examines all the new interesting and printed pieces that come in this enormous set, and then describes cool techniques used in the build process.

LEGO Ideas set No.17, 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V has finally landed after a fairly lengthy wait in production orbit. The original fan designers Felix Stiessen (saabfan) and Valérie Roche (whatsuptoday) submitted their version of the Apollo 11 Mission Model to the LEGO Ideas platform back in August 2014 and achieved the required 10,000 supporters by November 2015. After passing review in June 2016, the final set is due in stores on 1 June 2017, with 1969 parts (a perfectly calculated number to reflect the year of man’s first steps on the moon) and a price tag of US$119.99/£109.99/119.99€. This is the largest set to be released within the Ideas theme to date, both in terms of part count and the model’s impressive 100cm final height... or length.

In the Box

The 1969 elements are spread across 12 numbered bags. I think this is the first time an Ideas set has used numbered bags and it is a good idea given the number of parts.

The 182-page instruction booklet has a great retro feel with a sepia-style front cover and introductory pages containing a blueprint-style design, history of the Apollo mission, fan designer biographies and information about the LEGO designers who worked on the final model. My favourite photograph is the ‘Rocket Men’ image of the three Space-enthusiast LEGO designers who helped design the final model: Mike Psiaki, Carl Thomas Merriam and Austin William Carlson.

New Elements

There are no new element moulds in this set, but there are five elements that appear in a new colour for the first time. I thought I would do something slightly different this time by highlighting each new element and then show how it was used in the set.


There is one 8x8 round tile in Earth Blue [TLG]/ Dark Blue [BL] (Element ID 6200046 | Design ID 6177) in this set and it forms the base of the Command Module that contained the crew when they returned back home to Earth. Since it landed on water, I imagine this element represents the dark colour of the ocean.

Link 1M Fric/Fork/Stumpf

Eight of the Link 1M Friction Fork are supplied in Bright Orange/ Orange (6200047 | 30554) and are also used in the Landed Command Module section of the set. As shown above, they depict the inflatable raft that encircles the command module itself. It is not fixed in position, but simply slides over the cone and is a tight enough fit to sit neatly in place.

Lattice Wall 1X6X5

There are six of these supporting elements supplied in Bright Blue/ Blue (61866296 | 64448) and they form the stands that allow the model to rest safely on its side in a horizontal position.

Given that the model is 100cm tall, it is useful to have these for a stable horizontal display option. I do wonder why there was a special recolour for this purpose?


There are five tubs in Titanium Metallic / Pearl Dark Grey (6197966 | 64951) in this set and it is a fantastic recolour for their purpose (as part of the F1 engines that powered the first stage of the launch to lift the rocket 42 miles up). The tub element has an axle hole through the base (there is also another similar element with no axle hole) and was previously made available in Reddish Brown, Medium Lavender and Medium Nougat so this metallic version is a great addition for builders.

Bracelet Upper Part

The final new recolour, the 1x1 flower in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray (6182167 | 33291) will be popular with all the ‘Spacers’ out there who love their bley parts. I have been collecting the various colours of this element so I was pleased to see another to add to my collection. It will be useful for a flower in a monochrome scene too I guess…

It is often seen as a flower or vegetation part, but the Saturn V model uses four of these elements for the detailing on the Apollo Service Module portion of the build. A spare is supplied.

Interesting Elements

While the following three elements are not new to this set, the two recolours of the ‘nipple’ are both relatively recent elements that may be new to some New E readers and indeed this mould is still new — only introduced in 2016 — while the Black Fez is a blast from the past.

Plate 1X1 W/3.2 Shaft/1.5 Hole

This appears in Black (6167933 | 20482) in four other sets at present: one in 10255 Assembly Square, one in 76080 Ayesha’s Revenge, two in 75524 Chirrut Îmwe (currently on discount from Amazon USA) and two in 75878 Bugatti Chiron. Seven are used in this set and a spare brings the total count to eight.

The White version (Element ID 6178492) appears in only one other set at present, LEGO Minifigures Series 17 #14 Dance Instructor, as the lid on her sports bottle. Four are used in this set and a spare brings the total count to five.

As well as Black and White this element also appears in Transparent, Warm Gold/Pearl Gold and Reddish Brown. The rarest of these other colours is definitely Reddish Brown (6162975) as it only appears in three sets; one in 71258 E.T., one in 70625 Samurai VXL and two in 41185 Magic Rescue from the Goblin Village.

Back to the rocket. Both the Black and White versions of the ‘nipple’ are used in the same manner in the build, mainly during the construction of S-IC STAGE near the base of the rocket. Between the panels of 6-stud wide curves, a ‘tower’ of Black and White 1x1 round bricks (Design ID 3062) helps complete the curve to give a cylindrical shape. At the end tower, the ‘nipple’ is used to connect the tower to the Plate 1X2 w. Hole Ø 4.8 (11458) and at the top a Black Cone 1X1 Inverted w. shaft (11610) is held in place with a Plate 1X1 W. Up Right Holder ‘clip’ (15712).


Although the Element ID has changed, the Black Fez (Element ID 6203937 | Design ID 85975) in this set is the same as the old one (Element ID 4619597) that only appeared in one set, LEGO Minifigures Series 4 #11 Soccer Player, as the trophy’s base. This element became rather pricey on the secondary market after the Arvo Brothers used four of these for their Alien Project.

Printed Elements

Saturn V has no stickers, thus supplying a nice selection of printed parts. There are 16 of the  relatively new mould Brick W/Half Bow 2X3 W/Cut (Design ID 24309) in White, printed with four sets of U, S & A lettering and the American flag. These are used in S-IC Stage.

Within the S-II Stage, four sets of White 1x6 tiles are printed with red UNITED (Element ID 6199652) and STATES (6199662). One White 1x8 tile is printed with a dashed black line (Element ID 6201676).

The Landed Command Module has a hatch and technology gadgetry printed on the side of the Dark Stone Grey/ Dark Bluish Gray Rocket Step 4X4X2 (Element ID 6199823).

These three printed elements all form part of the Lunar Landing Module. The Landing Module’s hatch is printed on a Medium Stone Grey Slide Shoe Round 2X2 (Element ID 6199828). Finally, there is an American flag printed on a Transparent / Trans-Clear 1x2 tile (Element ID 6199664).

The actual Apollo Saturn V rocket was 111m in height. The LEGO Ideas version is approximately 1:100 scale, which means that the trophy statuette astronaut figures are close in terms of scale (albeit with their little stands and the general fudge-factor relating to LEGO figures and their odd short and fat proportions). A comparison of minifigure, microfig and the trophy statuette shows the relative sizes and proportions.

The three astronaut microfigures supplied (plus one spare) represent Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins who flew in Apollo 11. Please note that while I generously allowed Michael Collins to stand on the Moon in the image of the Lunar Landing Module above, in reality he watched from the Command Module in orbit above the lunar surface. These microfigures are incredibly detailed with their intricate space suit print and the gold visor on the front of the head. There is no back printing and all the figures are identical.

Don't want spoilers about the build process? Stop now and read about our competition instead!

Curvaceously Crafted

It is clear from the first stage of the build that this is no ordinary set. While a rocket may well be a cylindrical shape, there is a huge amount of SNOT involved in every stage of the build. The internal scaffolding uses Wall Element 4X4X6, Round (Design ID 30562) but this is all hidden when the beautiful outer rendering is applied.

The first part to be built is the S-IC Stage of the rocket using the panels that sit, offset, upon brackets that themselves sit up on a single Round Plate 1x1 (6141).

Once the inner scaffolding has been built, all the outer panels of curved slopes are ingeniously fitted to completely cover this complex inner scaffolding. The central area where the Warm Gold telescopes radiate is a joy to build and their purpose becomes clear when the back of the panels’ plates attach to the end of the telescope centrally. Ooooo... ahhhhhhhh!

The gaps are then filled by attaching small brick-built sections onto the inner Plate 1X2 W. Vertical Grip, which is new in Bright Yellow/ Yellow (6171814 | 92280) for 2017, so far only appearing in 60144 Race Plane (currently discounted at Amazon US).

Another method for creating the curves is utilised in S-IVB Stage when the designers use Mixels joints to get the correct angle - genius!

S-II Stage separates from S-IC Stage easily as the connection is simply bars and clips and the same process is used to separate S-IVB from S-II. You can see the simple connection of Dark Stone Grey Plate 1X2 W/Fork/Vertical/End (4210884 | 44302) at the base of S-IVB Stage attaches to Bright Red Plate 2X1 W/Holder,Vertical (4534648 | 63868) at the top of S-II stage, This connection is both solid and easily disconnected to allow the set to split in the same manner as the real Saturn V.

Final Thoughts

From a New Elementary point of view, this set is not remarkable in terms of new parts although there are a few new colours of interest. Saturn V is amazing to build and has some fantastic techniques that are all hidden when the model is finished. The ease of separation of each stage to allow play is a testament to the skilled scaffolding underneath the outer covering of the model. I found myself thinking “Whhaaaaat, this is mad and brilliant...” as some of the techniques were so unexpected for me. For example this was the first time I have seen a connection using the Plate 1X2 W. Vertical Schaft (88072) easily spotted, as it is green in the build.

It’s fun, it looks amazing and it is playable and it’s a rocket!!! Plus this build is SOLID, I was carrying it around, taking it outside and generally not being gentle, and it stayed together perfectly! (I am 162cm if that helps with scale).

My recommendation: buy it… build it!

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  1. I think I might be able to answer why the 6x5 girder was recolored—the blue roughly matches the supports used to display the Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/saturn-v-rocket-displayed-above-apollo-high-res-stock-photography/148600511

    This set is truly a wonder to behold. One of the first MOCs I remember making (not THE first, but the first that really stuck in my memory) was a model of the Saturn V rocket. As such, this is a set that I absolutely need to get!

    1. ah ha! Thanks Andrew, that makes sense. I thought there was probably a reason but I drew a blank when checking out the launch tower as it seemed red but that makes sense :-)

  2. Great review. You are missing one color of "Bracelet Upper Part" in the picture. The Darl Green is missing

    1. ahhhhhh....goes off to Bricklink. Thanks for fuelling my obsession :-)

    2. Missing a lot more than that, actually. If the BL inventories are correct, by my count, she needs:

      Lavender or Medium Lavender? (can't tell which one)

      If the sales listings are to be believed, she's missing quite a few more. I took a quick look at those six colors (3 shades of Pink, Brown, Light-Green, Medium-Orange) and I'm reasonably certain they're all just misidentified colors. None of them list them as rare colors, they can all be easily mistaken for one of the legit colors, and in one case (Brown) there are still people who aren't aware of the 2004 color change.

    3. Very true Purple Dave. I am always a little careful when only one or two sellers have a 'rare' part like the light green etc as I agree they sound like misidentified colours. I actually realised that I do have trans. clear but I still have those others to go....oh dear :-(

    4. Violet and Light Purple are indeed real available colors...it will just take you a while to find sellers that actually have them inventoried correctly. I got Light Purple after about 5 orders. Still on the hunt for Violet.

      Orange actually showed up again this year in a few sets after not being available for 13 years.

    5. Trans-clear actually combines really well with the toque/chef's cap to make minifig scale jellyfish, as well as being the only small, clear element that can be added unobtrusively to provide a hollow or recessed stud that you can plug a bar into.

      I have run across some nice oddball part/color combos over the years. I have a red push-broom, which is something that you can buy locally for snow-removal. I have a pile of these in trans-clear, and another pile of regular 1x1 round plates in trans-fluorescent yellow (a legit color that was largely restricted to early Bionicle sets and Clikits). I did have a lot of problems with a few specific parts over the years, as well. Most of the trans-fluorescent blue (also a legit color, commonly known as trans-medium blue) 8x8 plates turned out to be trans-light blue instead. Most of the yellow versions of this part were actually bright-light orange (which is super common). A few of the sellers I bought large orders of dark-purple 2x4 bricks from several years ago sent me sent me a whole range of other shades of purple instead. And I spent a long time trying to get 3x new dark-tan 6x8 plates (rare and expensive) only to be sent a pile of tan 6x8 plates before I wised up and started questioning new listings before placing orders.

    6. Oops, retract that last bit. I was looking for tan and got a bunch of dark-tan instead. Tan, which was, at the time only available in three sets from 1998/1999, the first two of which were the two largest Desert sets from the Adventurers theme. And now it's available from ten more sets in the last 2.5 years! Gah! Not that I'm ever bitter about bending over backwards while jumping through flaming hoops to get that one piece that I absolutely need to complete a MOC only to see them flood the market with them a couple years later...

  3. Thanks for the detailed review! The only modification I will be making based on what I've seen so far is substituting transparent blue 1x1 round plates for the rocket plumes on the second and third stages, as the liquid hydrogen for them would burn blue or clear, unlike the red plume for the first stage, which burned kerosene.

  4. I'm surprised you missed the new color for the so-called Apollo studs, surely they have been added in for the pun?
    I'm assuming those are hollow studs in gold on the landing pod, no? That's a new color.

    1. Haha, very funny! NOW we know why I called them that ;)

      Elspeth was right not to include them though - gold was introduced last year.

    2. Ah you're right. I see it now. Both Brickset & Bricks&Pieces don't list gold when looking for 85861, but do for 28626

  5. I think quite a few Ideas sets actually used numbered bags. I just confirmed that the Yellow Submarine did, for starters, but I believe both TBBT and Doctor Who had them. Probably not as many (2-3), but still numbered.

    Of course, I think the record on the other end is probably 10179 UCS Milennium Falcon, which had something to the tune of 80 non-numbered bags, many of which were duplicates (the most I counted was 9 of the same sort) to make packing the set more efficient. Sucked big time for building the thing, though. And of course, numbered bags usually results in bonus bonus pieces because they have to include one of each in every bag that includes an affected element.

    1. My TBBT and Dr Who did not have numbered bags ;-)

    2. I did just check my parter copies, and Doctor Who had mostly unprinted bags with one that just has the little black-on-white recycling/copyright text. TBBT, on the other hand, most definitely has 2x #1 bags and 3x #2 bags, and the instruction book is numbered to match (maybe a North American/European difference?). BttF, Ghostbusters, and Wall-E were unnumbered based on their instruction books, but I can't find my open box for the Research Institute. The Exo-Suit was unnumbered, so I suspect RI would have been as well, given that they were released on the same day and RI is smaller than the Exo-Suit. So, numbered bags for Cuusoo probably never happened, and appears to have only started recently for Ideas. But they do exist.

    3. And I just found the box from the copy of RI that I built. Shockingly, it does come in three tiny little numbered bags, according to the instructions. But Exo-Suit doesn't. I'm going to assume that was done because it divides so neatly into three distinct models.

      Anyways, so that's Research Institute, The Big Bang Theory, and Yellow Submarine that I have opened and can verify have modular builds, while Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, the Exo-Suit, Doctor Who, and Wall-E do not. The only set I've bought that I haven't checked is Birds. Like RI, this set divides into three distinct models, and I sorta remember it being a modular build as well.

  6. I am building this amazing kit right now. I was wondering, there are small stars on some of the parts in the instruction book, both in the pages and at the end where they list all the parts. From this article, they don't appear to be new parts or parts cast in a new color. I cannot find any explanation in the booklet. Does anybody know what this means?

    1. Having any sort of examples might be helpful, especially for those of us who do not currently own this set.

      On a WAG, it could be that they are new elements, which gets a bit goofy. A shape (say, a 2x4 brick) may have existed for years, but any color it's produced in qualifies as a distinct element, and is assigned a unique Element ID# (that's the 6-7 digit number printed next to it in the back of the instruction book). Every new element is tracked in the system so they can keep a certain number of replacement parts on hand, just in case someone breaks or loses one of those parts. If no new sets use that same element, after a period of years it will be retired by The LEGO Company and any leftover parts will be purged from inventory. If that same part/color combo is put back into use at a later date, it will be assigned a new Element ID# (for instance, dark-purple 2x4 bricks have had at least three Element ID#'s assigned to them in 2004, 2011, and 2015). So, while we may see a part that has been on-and-off for decades, each time this happens it is a brand-new element as far as TLC is concerned.

      So maybe this is what's going on. But it would still really help to know what elements are starred.

    2. Thanks Purple Dave. I think that's it! I don't know if I can post pictures here so I will give an example. 1x1 part in white 302401 is gold part in this kit as 6069887. I know "the bucket" used in this kit 6197966 in grey (I think this was used in some of the pirate sets). The stared parts are higher numbers, so what you say makes complete sense to me!

      I do hope you get one of these sets. The ingenuity, craftsmanship and love put into this set is just amazing.

    3. I can list the parts by number:

    4. So it does seem that there are current molds that are used to cast parts in new colors for this set?

    5. I was actually hoping for common terms, so "1x1 plate" would be your first example. The gold one (6069887) has appeared in sets every year since their debut in 2014's Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP!, so it shouldn't have had time to be retired, and indeed BSSS lists it by the same Element ID#. So, that doesn't make sense as the reason after all.

      I don't know that EID#'s are assigned sequentially. It seems like they should be (and for the first numbers to appear in instruction books, many of the 2x4 bricks in the LEGO Champion game _were_ sequentially numbered), but it's really hard to keep track of them all and when they appear.

      I do plan to buy a copy of this set at some point, but I just picked up the entire summer wave of TLBM sets, so it's not at the top of my priority list right now.

      Ideas sets aren't allowed to call for new part designs. I'm not sure if they're allowed to call up an old part design if it requires cutting a new mold or not (one major flaw with the Exo-Suit was that it used the original mold for the old Space robot arm, which meant every copy of that part in that set had almost no clutch power). There doesn't appear to be a hard limit on the number of new prints they're allowed to include (Ghostbusters had four heads, four torsos, the logo element, the Ecto-1 license plate, and the inverse dish used on the backpack; Yellow Submarine has four heads, four torsos, one set of legs, a blob, two bricks, a panel, and 10/11 printed tiles). There is, however, a restriction on the number of new elements they're allowed to have molded. For minifigs, the entire torso assembly and legs assembly each count as one part (TMNT is the reason we got green Classic Space minifigs). At the time the Exo-Suit was designed, the limit was five new elements for any single Ideas set. If an element was being called into production by any other theme, it was fair game with no restrictions for Ideas, even if they got it to market first. You listed twelve numbers, which isn't outside the realm of possibilities, but certainly is improbable.

    6. Hey Purple Dave, sorry, I am a slow typist.

      So, there still remains a mystery. I hope that Lego will enlighten us at some point!

      Thanks for all your help!

    7. Hey I got an answer from Lego Customer Service:

      Hello Gareth. This was a tough question until I realized what you were talking about. On page 151 step 242 there are two pieces with "stars" on them. This is actually a symbol used in all LEGO sets to differentiate our gold and silver pieces from gray and orange. The designers believed that this little shimmer symbol would help builders find the pieces faster for a more pleasant build.

      By LEGO Consumer Services MANUFACTURER on June 5, 2017

    8. Okay, that should actually be somewhat obvious from the parts list in the back of the instruction book, since everything is grouped by color. This means all the starred elements should be clumped together.

      The tricky thing is, there are several colors that could qualify as "gold", and even more than would fall under the term "silver". You've got the pearl colors, the metallic colors, the drum-lacquered colors, the chrome colors, and with the silver range there's often at least light and dark variations (and sometimes even a third). Even gold gets messy in that regard, since the little minifig trophy from the CMF S2 Judoka is a different shade of gold than the same element from S9's Marilyn.

  7. 1x1 flower is coming in pearl gold with the Old Fishing Store!

    1. It already came in the Creator Big Ben set.

  8. So, it appears that the inner parts I thought were just scaffolding are meant to represent the liquid oxygen and fuel tanks contained within the lower stages. The crazy contraption in the middle of the lowest stage does not seem like it matches anything in the plans I looked at, but are a pretty ingenious way of keeping the skin of the "intertank section" on.