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13 July 2022

LEGO® ICONS™ review: 10497 Galaxy Explorer

Posted by Caz Mockett

In 1979 The LEGO Group released a set which is still much loved by fans of the LEGO® Space theme, designed by the now-legendary Jens Nygård Knudsen. In the USA it was known as 497 Galaxy Explorer, while elsewhere it went by the name of 928 Space Cruiser And Moonbase. Nowadays, fans mostly refer to it as “Galaxy Explorer” or simply “928” since that was the number printed on the sides of both versions of the ship. 

Due for release on 1 August 2022 worldwide, the set will retail for £89.99 / US$99.99 / 99.99€ / AU$179.99 and contains 1254 pieces, giving a price to part value of 7.2p / 8.0c / 8.0c. If you are pre-ordering or buying this set, please consider using our affiliate links, New Elementary may get a commission: USA LEGO Shop | Australia LEGO Shop | UK LEGO Shop/for Europe 'Change region'.

Products in this article were provided by LEGO®; the author's opinions are their own.

I was an avid fan of the early Classic Space models but never had 928 back in its heyday, so could only dream of owning it while drooling over photos of it in the catalogues. I had to wait 40 years before I would own the original model myself! So when rumours of an updated 928 to celebrate the company’s 90 Years Of Play surfaced, my hand shot up to volunteer for the review duties here at New Elementary Towers. Before examining its new elements, let’s take a look at the details of the build itself.

The Build

The set comes in 9 numbered bags, plus a loose 8x16 tile, and the instruction booklet is in its own bag to prevent it from getting damaged, which is always a welcome touch.

After building bag 1, the bare skeleton of the ship emerges and gives us a good idea of the finished size of the vessel. The iconic red astronaut is back, along with a robotic beverage-making chum lifted directly from 6809 XT-5 and Droid, released in 1987. The airframe is constructed around various LEGO® Technic elements which gives it reasonable strength and rigidity, even at this stage.

Bag 2 gives us the first sight of the familiar blue of the fuselage. The sloping sides are anchored at the forward end but remain loose at the rear end until their final attachment during bag 6.

After completing bag 3, a white astronaut has joined the construction gang and the rear wing edges have been filled in.

The trailing edges taper towards the tail of the ship and are held in place with some clever geometry that eventually gets sandwiched between the top and bottom surfaces of the wings. The stud end of the “barista plate” Bar 1L with 1 x 1 Round Plate with Hollow Stud (32828) is attached to the tapered edge and the bar end goes into the hollow stud of either a 1x1 SNOT brick or headlight brick to bring the attachments back onto the grid.

Bag 4 completes the leading edges of the front half of the ship, and a few more wing-filler elements. I found this view pleasing when I noticed that many of the filler bricks are another nostalgic callback: they are the colours of the five-stripe flag in the LEGO logo on 1970s packaging; yellow, red, blue, white and black.

Bag 5 brings us another red astronaut to assist with construction. They have been busy and the wings are now covered with light bluish grey plates along with the mandatory “bumblebee” hazard stripes. When official photos of the set first emerged during LEGO Con, some adult fans expressed displeasure that the wings showed lots of studs, since many AFOL Neo-Classic Space creations have a completely studless look. Personally, I like the fact that we still see plenty of studs - it ties it back to the iconic, fully-studded wings of the original much more strongly.

Bag 6 shifts the attention to the rear cargo ramp and interior equipment compartment, along with a couple of small cargo trunks at each side of the rear fuselage. We also attach stanchions to each wing which will eventually anchor the wing-mounted engines.

If you want the whole Classic Spacey essence distilled into one bag, it has to be Bag 7. Chock-full of new exclusive printed control panels, a huge Classic Space logo on a blue tile, LL928 on two 1x6 bricks, plus the translucent yellow canopies... it made my heart skip a beat when I first tipped the pieces into my part trays.

Once construction with these elements is completed the build really begins to take on the shape of a beautiful new ship, including a fully spec’d forward passenger compartment and rear hold full of complicated equipment.

Bag 8 completes the swing-out rear cargo bay doors which include some lovely upscaled, brick-built arrows which is another callback, this time to printed elements that used to be included in the Classic Space ships.

Another part that has been upscaled is the three-nozzle trimming jet, which used to be made from one specialised brick (3963). In this incarnation, we get a brick-built version using buckets! 

One other thing the above photo highlights is the nasty mess some plates now have at their injection moulding point. Many used to have a smoother, well-controlled divot which, while slightly annoying, didn’t look as bad as this randomly textured area (clearly visible on the 1x1 plate, one brick below the nozzles).

The sliding airlock door between the rear equipment section and the cargo bay is another brick-built feature that pleased me greatly. The dividing wall lies at the same sloped angle as the rest of the fuselage but integrates into the main studs-up floor in a delightful way. Astro Red is waving a cheery hand through the doorway.

Bag 9 finishes off the two wing-mounted engines - which are actually detachable craft, for a bit of zooming-around fun - as well as the smaller boosters at the back of the rear doors.

Red has decided to take one of the engines for an individual spin…

… which leaves his three colleagues temporarily grounded! 

Let’s take a look at the new and unusual parts included in the set, while Red is having some fun.

Exclusive New Parts in 10497 Galaxy Explorer

There is one new mould to be seen in the inventory:

  • 2x Tile Round 1 x 2 Half Circle in Medium Stone Grey/Light Bluish Gray (6408629 | 1748) - newly released in August 2022, exclusive in Light Bluish Gray in this set, and also due to appear in White in the Red Yoshi character from LEGO® Super Mario 71410 Character Packs - Series 5.

Two exclusive recolours are also present:

  •  4x Plate Special 2 x 2 with Bar Frame Octagonal, Reinforced, Completely Round Studs in Light Bluish Gray (6397889 | 75937) - a unique recolour here, it will surely be a popular new part for Classic Space MOC builders.
  • 2x Minifig Helmet Classic, New Mold 2019 in Red (6390833 | 50665) - now adding iconic Red to the current selection of White, Yellow, Orange, Black, Blue, Dark Pink and Dark Bluish Gray options for this re-issued part.

Rare Elements

The following are hard to find in other sets:

  • 1 x  Slope 45° 2 x 2 with Black Grill Print in Light Bluish Gray (6316961 | 3039) - additionally in 10274 ECTO-1.
  • 6 x Slope Inverted 33° 3 x 1 with Internal Stopper and No Front Stud Connection in Bright Blue/Blue (6372038 | 4287) - while the older 'a' and 'b' variants of this piece have been seen in many sets, this is only the third appearance for the 'c' mould, the other two being 10299 Real Madrid – Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and 60097 City Square
  • 4x Bracket 1 x 1 - 1 x 2 Inverted in Blue (6344218 | 73825) - also in 40560 Professors of Hogwarts, 10283 NASA Space Shuttle Discovery and 10279 Volkswagen T2 Camper Van.
  • 2x Brick Round 2 x 2 with Axle Hole in Transparent Red/Trans-Red (6334501 | 39223) - only seen in a trio of Ferraris before now, 8653 Enzo Ferrari 1:10, 8145 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano 1:10 and 42125 Ferrari 488 GTE "AF Corse #51".


There are also a handful of parts which have received new Element IDs (not pictured). I can't see any difference from the equivalents included in 70841 Benny's Space Squad:

  • 2x Minifig Helmet Classic, New Mold 2019 in White (6390834 | 50665) - the 2019 version was 6261399
  • 2x Torso Classic Space Logo Print (2019 Version), White Arms and Hands (6396335 | 76382) - the 2019 version was 6261531

These two appear to have no functional differences from their original counterparts:

  • 4 x Hinge Plate 1x2, No. 2 in Blue (6416505 | 1927) - new for 2022 and only additionally seen in 21058 Great Pyramid of Giza with this Element ID, but used to be common as Hinge Plate 1 x 4 Swivel (2429 / 2430)
  • 2x 6x13x2 Cockpit Canopy in Trans Yellow (6390837 | 51477) - also has a new EID and Design ID compared with (6065598 | 13252) from Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP! This probably just reflects the change in transparent plastic materials which has been ongoing for several years now.

Printed Pieces

I’m very pleased to report that the set contains no stickers at all! Official names for most of these printed parts are not yet available, so the following are my attempt at descriptive names:

  • 1x Tile 2x2 with Control Panel Medium Screen Spaceship & Asteroids Print in White (6428484 | 3068)
  • 3x Tile 2x2 with Control Panel Buttons & Green Plus Sign in White (6428480 | 3068)
  • 1x Tile 2x2 with Large Display Screen Showing Spaceship in White (6428481 | 3068)
  • 2x Torso Classic Space Logo Print (2019 Version), Red Arms and Hands (6396330 | 76382)
  • 1x Tile 2x2 with Large Display Screen Showing Astronaut in White (6428482 | 3068)
  • 2x Tile 2x2 with Control Panel Buttons & Black Horizontal Lines in White (6428485 | 3068)
  • 1x Tile 2x2 with Large Round Radar Display in White (6428487 | 3068)
  • 2x Brick 1x6 with White 'LL928' Print in Blue (6323429 | 3009)
  • 1x Tile 2x4 with Classic Space Logo Print in Blue (6302718 | 87079)

The above are all new and exclusive to this set. The remaining printed element is as follows: 

  • 3x Tile 1x2 with Groove and Classic Control Panel print in White (6304928 | 68418) - this newer incarnation of an older print appears in 5 other sets.

Galaxy Explorer Play Features

I have already mentioned the detachable engine pods that allow for smaller zooming races, but most AFOLs will be wanting an answer to the question: Does it swoosh?

The answer is yes! But it is a pretty heavy model. I also found that, unlike the original ship which has a few chunky elements underneath to get hold of, the new version is virtually flat on its underside. I could only find one way to hold it safely for swooshing when the landing gear is in the down position. Grabbing the leading edge of one wing is also a possibility, but not quite as satisfying as controlling it from underneath, at least not in my experience. It’s certainly sturdy enough to be held by just one wing, if you are inclined to do so.

This view of the underside shows the three retractable feet in their open and closed configurations. There is only a small gap to hook them open when they are in their closed position, which can be a bit awkward for adult hands, but those with smaller fingers should be fine. This viewpoint also shows that the underside is rather bland, and is begging for some additional greebling to finish it off. I can fully understand why the set did not come with anything else on the underside, but if AFOLs wish to customise their craft further, then this is one area where they may like to make some improvements.

Unlike the original incarnation, there is plenty of room in this vessel for all four crew members to sit comfortably in the forward crew compartment. Don’t they look happy?

The rear cargo bay also has plenty of room for the upgraded rover to be transported, with a retractable ramp that allows the rover to run out quickly when it is in the lower position. For me, the one disappointment of this rover build is that there are no minifigure air tanks hanging on the front, which was a common feature of many Classic Space rovers. Many AFOLs would have welcomed the recolour of this iconic part in Light Bluish Gray, as it does not currently exist in the newer colour which is now used in the LEGO palette.


This 928 Family Portrait shows six versions of the ship that have appeared to date, giving you a quick visual size comparison:

  • Sticker print on a 1x2 brick from 80036 The City of Lanterns (OK, this is probably cheating!)
  • Microscale build from 40290 60 Years of the LEGO Brick
  • Microscale build from 11021 90 Years of Play
  • 11910 Micro-Scale Space Cruiser from the DK book Great LEGO Sets: A Visual History with Micro-scale Space Cruiser (UK edition: ISBN 9780241011638, US edition: ISBN 9781465436665)
  • 497/928 Galaxy Explorer
  • 10497 Galaxy Explorer 

Another comparison which might interest our readers is with 70816 Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP!, the closest we had been to a Classic Space reboot before this most recent addition to the fleet. They are certainly a similar length but 10497 has a larger planform and definitely looks more substantial.

Caz Mockett's Original Builds Inspired by 10497 Galaxy Explorer

The original set consisted of the spaceship itself, plus a crater baseplate, moonbase building and a landing pad baseplate. After the initial reveal of the new set, some AFOLs were disappointed that it only contained a ship. However, I’m not particularly in this camp - despite the extras in the older release, the ship is definitely the most iconic part. It was never going to be an option to replicate the vacuum-formed crater plates - especially as the new ship is 50% larger than the original vessel and those old baseplates measured 32x32 modules. So rather than complaining about the lack of extras, I decided to build some myself.


I used Light Bluish Gray 48x48 baseplates for my setup. Not having enough tiles to fully smooth out the landing pad surface, I decided to just mark out the round landing zone, road markings and landing lights. 


My moonbase plate has a brick-built crater at one corner and the building itself has been upgraded to a fully-enclosed pod with a removable roof. The dish atop the tower is now mounted on a swivelling base which can seat an astronaut in the control position.

I’ve also upgraded the notoriously fragile 4-pronged aerial with a more sturdy version built from several different elements. The new ship fits perfectly on the landing pad (the old model used to overhang its smaller counterpart too).

Conclusion

I feel this updated version of the Galaxy Explorer is a fantastic homage to the original set, even though it only contains the ship and not the baseplates or moonbase. The new design is a pleasure to build, with a few interesting techniques along the way, which evoked huge waves of nostalgia as I was building. The price point is definitely appealing and the set should delight fans of those original Classic Space models, new and old.

Image ©2022 The LEGO Group

During the reveal video at LEGO Con, set designer Mike Psiaki hinted that not only was it possible to build a Galaxy Explorer from the contents of 10497, but also updated versions of the two smaller craft released in 1979, LL918 and LL924. This was expanded upon further in this article on Brickset. Although they cannot be built simultaneously, the instructions for these will apparently be available online once the set is launched, so I wasn’t available to evaluate them at this time. It is a lovely idea and adds further value to the set, in my opinion. 

Am I grateful to have received this set to review? Definitely. Would I put my own money where my mouth is and buy one if I hadn’t? In a heartbeat.

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Editor: Chris Baginski 

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10 comments:

  1. Great review, Caz. I appreciate New Elementary's focus on new parts in their reviews, and 10497 doesn't disappoint, at least so far as printed bits go. I'm very pleased to hear that there are no stickers, which means the build can proceed without interruption, just like the original. I've long been a fan of Mike Psiaki's work, well before he joined the LEGO Group as a designer. there are some AFOLs that wish worked for LEGO, and Mike was one of those for me; glad he's there now and treating us to fantastic sets like the Creator Expert Mustang, and now this, which is near and dear. Like you, I didn't have the Galaxy Explorer as a kid, longingly pouring over the mini-catalogs that came with sets back then to enjoy it vicariously. I got my copies of 497 later in life as well, but with the advent of new parts and advanced techniques becoming more prevalent, there was always that hope that Classic Space, and the Galaxy Explorer in particular, would get some updates. Glad that day is nigh upon us; I've two copies preordered, and I may just add a third to that count before all's said and done. Deepest gratitude to TLG for making this set; it's a dream come true, and I look forward to clicking some Classic Space bricks in August. Thanks again for the review, Caz. Your passion is evident, shared, and much appreciated.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, really pleased you enjoyed the review. I’m sure the set will not disappoint ;-)

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  2. The original remains my all-time favourite LEGO set! I suffered a life-changing head injury in childhood and LEGO played a pivotal role in my recovery. I'm looking forward to adding this to the collection.

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    1. 928 is certainly my favourite vintage set, without a doubt. :-)

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  3. Half-circle tile is a nice surprise, nice.

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    Replies
    1. Yes I’m sure we will see it appearing in more colours in due course.

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    2. The notches for the half-stud offset (like on modern jumper plates) are a nice surprise that gives them some added utility over paired 1x1 quarter-circle tiles (in addition to things like being able to lock parts together with it, being able to potentially print or sticker a continuous pattern, and otherwise having a more seamless look).

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  4. Thank you for the review, further cementing that - yes, I will be getting two or maybe even three of these, to build and rebuild into the entire three-part fleet.

    Here's another recent version of the Galaxy Explorer, hosted on this site:
    https://www.newelementary.com/2018/12/lego-movie-2-review-70821-emmet-and.html

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  5. 2x Tile Round 1 x 2 Half Circle (6408629 | 1748) also will be in tan in New 71408 princess peaches castle, and it seem it will be transparent in new the office set.

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  6. Davidslegoroom.blogspot.com1 Oct 2022, 23:12:00

    Really good review, trying to get more of the computer printed tiles and 6390838..any ideas

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