When ToyPhotographers.com gave me the opportunity to review and shoot a LEGO set, the Mars Research Shuttle (#60226) jumped out at me as soon as I saw it. The black, white and orange color scheme and the parts—including the eponymous shuttle, a Mars rover, cargo/storage drone, a helidrone and two astronaut minifigures—just looked like a lot of fun to photograph. The chance to place them in a Mars environment was the icing on the cake!
Consisting of 273 pieces. it’s not a big set. The build was very quick and straightforward and took a casual 30 minutes, give or take. It was fun though and has some nice features, like the opening tail fins and the working claw on the rover (courtesy of a rubber band).
Let’s take a closer look at this set.
The shuttle is obviously the star here. It’s well designed and sleek, and looks like a future version of the Space Shuttle if NASA had continued to use it. And who knows, if we get to the point of building runways on Mars or the moon, that design may come back! Either way, the playability is there with this model.
The cockpit hatch—a nicely over-printed, transparent piece—opens to hold the pilot (or the astronaut sans larger helmet). The main cabin opens and can hold the cargo drone and a minifig. I wish it also held the helidrone, but it’s a little too small in there, and you’ll just have to pretend that the rover fits inside. It has a cool-looking control panel though, and you could probably get a couple of minifigs in there together for some research discussion.
Rear thrusters/fins open on a hinge to reveal a little engine detail, and each thruster is capped with orange translucent pieces representing the burn-off. The landing gear seems a bit small, but I think they were trying to strike a balance between being up and down without having to build that function.
I have mainly Star Wars LEGO sets and none of them have any rubber tires, so I’ve never actually seen any up close. The Mars rover has six of these tires and they really sell this little vehicle! It was somewhat difficult to get the wheels on, and a kid might need some help with them.
The rest of the design truly has the look of a NASA exploratory vehicle. Off the angled, central “brain/engine,” featured pieces include a laser probe, rotating solar panel and a place for the removable helidrone to land.
The rover’s main feature though is its grappling arm/claw, which, like the laser, connects with a ball joint giving it a wide range of movement. The grappling claw functions through by using a small rubber band stretched around it. My only gripe here is that I wish this band matched the orange color of the arm to help hide it more.
There are two astronaut minifigs included with set. One sports a spacesuit we’ve seen before with other sets including the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander. The second body print is not something I have seen before (but let me know if I’m wrong), and I believe the helmet design is new. This one is my favorite and seems to be more of the pilot figure, but I imagine he’s also a researcher!
Other pieces and accessories
The other models include the helidrone and the cargo drone. Both have very clever designs that, though simply built, are fun little models which are instantly recognizable for what they are for their functions.
The cargo drone carries a container with a clear, hinged door on the front and can hold small items like the very cool rocks that are also included (more below). Translucent orange 1 x 1 round pieces on each “foot” indicate thrusters.
The helidrone (as LEGO calls it) looks like a cross between a drone and a tiny helicopter. Its single propeller can spin and on its front side (or is it the rear?), it carries a “scanner” that could also be used by the astronauts. It also reveals a secret symbol when placed over the “scenery” piece (more below).
Included with the set are some “scenery” pieces. Two rocks are a combination of solid brown plastic and a translucent blue-green “mineral” interior. These look very cool with some light on them! The other piece is something I took to be some kind of scale at first, but is in fact supposed to be a part of the Martian landscape. Honestly, this could have been done a little better and seems like an afterthought. I would rather have had one or two of the rock halves that have been included with other sets. But this is really the only shortcoming in this set.
Part of the City line (#60226), the Mars Research Shuttle retails for $39.99 US. The set has a great playability factor, and if I was still a kid, I’d be buzzing around the house with this shuttle in hand (ok, I did a little of that in my studio). The rover looks authentic, the two minifigures are fun and, photography-wise, the whole set really gets your imagination going. Highly recommended!