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NASA and Lego Host ‘Build a Planet’ Challenge

The event was part of the company’s week of #LetsBuildTogether challenges

For Earth Day, NASA and Lego challenged families to build models of planets as a way to learn through play. (Courtesy of Lego)
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As April 22 marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, NASA and Lego joined together on social media to inspire families to celebrate at home. As part of Lego’s weeklong creative challenge, they prompted fans to “Build a Planet.”

NASA’s social media accounts made a strong showing in the challenge, with the NASA Sun and Space, NASA Earth, Johnson Space Center and even the Mars Curiosity Rover contributing their brick-based creations to the Earth Day challenge. The “Build a Planet” challenge is part of the ongoing initiative to encourage learning through play while families are staying home.

“Earthlings, assemble!” NASA said when they shared the challenge on Twitter. “We’ve teamed up with [Lego] to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and we have a challenge for you: BUILD YOUR OWN PLANET! Share your creations using #LetsBuildTogether and #EarthDayAtHome so we can see your masterpieces!”

In 1968, the Apollo 8 mission’s photo of Earth rising over the lunar horizon was hugely influential in sparking the first Earth Day in 1970, as NASA astronaut Jessica Meir says in her Earth Day video. Some of the Lego creations take a similar perspective, to the Earthrise photograph, showing the entire globe against an inky black background, while others show landscapes from above and scientists at work.

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Stuv’s MOCs: My response to the @LEGO #LetsBuildTogether BUILD A PLANET Challenge for Earth Day 2020. Celebrating the 50th #EarthDay with LEGO by building this view of Earth, Mars, and the moon

In other cases, entries opted to include fictional planets, like a miniature version of the Star Wars desert planet Tatooine. Another image showed the Earth and closest solar system neighbors, although the moon looks suspiciously like the Star Wars’ planet-destroying space station, the Death Star.

The challenge, which took place across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, was in the same vein as the Getty Museum Challenge, where the museum encouraged people at home to recreate classic paintings from their galleries using household objects and share them online.

NASA’s various entries paired their posts with educational blurbs, like NASA Sun & Space’s animated image of the sun’s magnetic eruption. In 2019, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted a new kind of magnetic explosion where a loop of erupted solar material was interrupted on its way back to the solar surface, which caused a magnetic explosion.

The Curiosity Rover, which has been on Mars since 2012, shared a contribution as well.

“I don't have any LEGO bricks with me,” the rover tweeted, “So friends on Earth made a mini-me and Mars' Murray Buttes.”

Curiosity photographed the Murray Buttes region in 2016. The photograph shows layers of sandstone—represented in Lego by a loose stack of thin, flat bricks—that were deposited by the wind as sand dunes migrated over the red planet’s surface.

NASA Earth showed off a Lego version of a poster that shows layers of planet Earth and its atmosphere, followed by a thread featuring creations by other NASA groups as well as families and kids. The Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas strayed from showing planets exactly, instead sharing Lego builds of the Space Launch System rocket, astronauts in training, and a crowd of Lego figures in a model of mission control.

The “Build a Planet” challenge was just one part of NASA’s list of ideas to celebrate Earth Day from home. The week of activities will be capped off on April 29 by announcing the winner of the “Terrestrial Tournament,” a bracket to decide the reigning champion of photographs of Earth taken by NASA’s Earth Observatory.

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