Sunday, April 28, 2024

MOC: Venusian Balloon

This is a MOC I made recently for the Lego Ideas challenge Exploring the Cosmos. The challenge requested either a space inspired vehicle or base. I quickly landed on the idea of wanting to do something atmospheric, as I like the idea of alien life maybe being buoyant creatures existing in the upper atmosphere of Venus, or within the vast cloudy environs of the gas giants! 

I could have taken that exploration down the base path, with some sort of floating observation platform or city, but as someone who has long held a fascination with airships as a form of transport, I thought a balloon based vehicle would be fun to play with.

Here's my little blurb from the original Ideas submission, which outlines the world this vehicle exists in, and what it can do:

An airship for scientists travelling between the floating research bases in the high semi-habitable layers of the atmosphere of Venus! While the surface of Venus is inhospitable due to high temperature, pressure, and acidity, higher altitudes provide a climate similar to Earth. This balloon is used to travel between the floating bases established to allow scientists to explore the planet from this safer environment, and if lucky, to catch sight of rare flying creatures that were found to also inhabit this gentler part of Venus.

The build includes a balloon with adjustable propellers to steer and move. The one-person capsule suspended below gives the pilot views of the cloudy world and the strange creatures that live around them. The seating and control section of the capsule is connected with a single stud to make it easy to position the pilot inside, while one side of the capsule hinges open to allow this.

Also included is a cloudy stand, and one of the Venusian aliens.

Continue after the jump to check out more of the design:

I did dabble with a more airship-type form for this design, but I just couldn't land on a shape I liked that worked with the big bubble-style capsule I wanted. So ultimately I made use of Lego's big balloon panels to make some more balloon shaped. This resulted in a couple of compromises: Firstly I only had these available in three colours in my parts selection, the dark orange and white I opted for (combining parts from Ninjago 70603: Raid Zeppelin(ad link) and Friends 41423: Tiger Hot Air Balloon Jungle Rescue(ad link)) directed complimentary colours used in the rest of the design. But I like the dark red accent I ended up using along the side of the capsule and for the steering thins, so that was ultimately a welcome direction to go.

Also I know really it doesn't make much sense as a functional vehicle for a balloon shape to be one that has directional controls like an airship, and of course the balloon being rather under-scaled for the task of carrying the bulky passenger capsule. Still, I think the fun of idea of someone ballooning about an alien atmosphere helps balance out the implausibility of it all.

The balloon itself is an easy build led by the parts, so most of the work in this design was on the capsule below. I knew I wanted to use lovely transparent 3x6x6 rounded-top half cylinder I had, which I was lucky to pick up on Pick-a-Brick a while ago, and seems to be the only time this part has been available outside of very limited promotional use. This gives the capsule a lovely glass bubble feel. 

The bubble is big enough for a minifigure to be placed behind/within, although it certainly constrained the build somewhat, with a very tight space for my little astronaut. I had fun squeezing in a variety of different printed control panels to give them lots of functionality. While on the outside that part inspired the overall very rounded capsule shape.

The entire pilot seat section is just held in place by a single stud on the bottom, so it can be popped out. This was the only way I could get the seat and control panels into the interior space while still being able to take the minifigure out. The rear of the bubble has a fairly elaborate hinge tucked inside it, to enable it to be opened without a big exterior hinge being visible when it's all closed up.

To give my space explorer an alien to spot I had a bit too much fun cobbling together all manner of mostly plant parts into something vaguely resembling a giant leafy sea-dragon.

And to finish it all off I built a cloudy display stand, so that the balloon and alien can sit together in a little section of the Venusian atmosphere. I was glad to get to use some more of my favourite parts here, the lovely transparent Technic lift-arms from Star Wars 7962: Anakin Skywalker and Sebulba's Podracers(ad link).

So there we go. My design wasn't ultimately picked for the challenge, but I had fun building it, and imaging the world it existed in, and I think that's most of the point of Lego Ideas challenges from a creator point of view. 

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