This Friday, NASA will launch an Atlas V rocket that will be contain a very special payload. Not only will the rocket be carrying Juno, a space probe that is being sent to Jupiter to study the fifth planet from the Sun, but there will be a few unique stowaways. Thanks to a joint mission between NASA and Lego, there will be three very special Lego minifigs affixed to the spacecraft.
The figures, milled from aluminum, will accompany Juno on its five-year trip to Jupiter. When Juno arrives in 2016, the Lego likeness of the Roman god, Jupiter, his sister, Juno, and the Italian astronomer, Galileo, will be there to take in all the sights and bask in the immensity of the largest planet.
This (until now) secret installation was initiated by NASA scientists, who loveLego as much as anyone and wanted to do something memorable for this mission. They approached Lego and the company loved the idea. It saw the project as a way to promote children's education and STEM programs.
The brick company even underwrote the project, at a cost of $5,000 for each of the minifigs, which will soon become the farthest flying toys ever. The manufacture of the figures was a deliberate process to ensure the figures would not interfere with NASA's sensitive measurements.