Once upon a time, I was going to be an astronaut. Then I learned more about math and science and noped straight out of that. My career goals changed, but my passion for space never waned. Even though most of the ships in my LEGO collection are of the Star Wars variety, I finally finished up my NASA trifecta during a weekend in March with the Space Shuttle Discovery set. (You can also find my build reports for the Saturn V and International Space Station.) This was an epic 2-day build that lasted the entire latest season of The Great British Baking Show and the beginning of an audiobook.
NASA Space Shuttle Discovery (10283) — 2,354 pieces
Usually, the ship LEGO sets have you build the stand as the very last bit of the instructions. That always feels like a let-down after the high of constructing the actual ship. This set reversed that, with the stand construction earlier in the process.
I kind of hated the black background on the pages of this instruction book. It was incredibly jarring, but I’d mostly gotten used to it by the end of the build. I did love the bits of trivia about the Hubble and Discovery sprinkled throughout the pages, though.
The number of pieces included in this set is deceptive because you end up getting two builds for the price of one. First up in the instructions was the Hubble Space Telescope. As with every previous LEGO ship I’ve built, no matter the theme, I constructed the core first.
Then, all the fiddly details are added, including the epic solar panels. Below are two different views of the same finished model, because it was impossible to capture all the cool details with a single angle.
Then it was on to the Discovery herself. The first package of pieces started off like most other ships, with the core of the rear glider fins. This included some Technic elements for the retractable landing gear.
Afterward is where the build started to diverge from other sets I’ve completed. Most ships are constructed around a solid core, but Discovery‘s payload bay makes this impossible. Instead, a solid base for the entire structure is built out first. By step 3, the set outgrew the tray I usually keep my building contained to and I had to move the picture taking to the kitchen table. The edges of the tray even crept into the first shot below (and you can see the lighting change as the sun went down since I was no longer under my bright kitchen lights). Once I added the outer layer of white, it started to look pretty familiar!
And what’s a spaceship without the main engines? This set included more Technic elements that eventually connected to the wing flaps (you can also see from the lighting change where I stopped for the night).
Next, it was back to the main body of the orbiter. I built up the sides of the payload bay and the mid-deck area of the crew compartment.
I decided against placing the stickers on the inside of the payload bay doors. I was warned by a fellow builder that it was difficult to align them properly, and I dislike having stickers on my sets except where necessary. Since I planned to display this set with the payload bay doors closed, I stuck the sticker sheet in the instruction book and moved on.
I appreciate the detail included in the orbiter’s mid-deck area of the crew compartment since the next steps were to completely cover it up!
Next, I returned to the rear of the orbiter to complete the vertical stabilizer and add the moveable elevons to the wings.
Finally, the rear of the orbiter is completed by adding the orbital maneuvering systems to either side of the tail.
And for the final touches, I finished the flight deck of the crew compartment, which (in true LEGO fashion) is tiny and adorable.
And then it was complete! Here’s a close view of the finished crew compartment.
The final set, with all components. It is possible to store the Hubble inside the orbiter’s payload bay, but I decided to display them separately. Six-seater dining room table shown for scale.
And yes, I’ve seen the Discovery in real life (see pic below)! That one is actually the easiest for me to visit, since it’s located at the Udvar-Hazy Center (an annex of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) outside of Washington DC. I’ve also seen the Enterprise in New York City and Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. So, the only orbiter I have not actually visited in person is the Endeavor in Los Angeles. Sounds like I need to hit the West Coast soon!