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Toy company Lego to produce Women of Nasa set

Science writer Maia Weinstock's winning "Women of Nasa" design will be the basis for a new Lego collection Image copyright Maia Weinstock
Image caption Science writer Maia Weinstock's winning "Women of Nasa" design will be the basis for a new Lego collection

Children's Lego boxes may already contain yellow Batman, Harry Potter and Star Wars characters, but soon they will also contain female Nasa pioneers.

The Danish toy company is making a new set of five figurines, based on real female scientists, engineers and astronauts.

The design, created by US science writer Maia Weinstock, won the Lego Ideas competition.

The characters will be available in late 2017 or early 2018.

The design was picked by the company after receiving 10,000 public votes, which made it eligible for consideration.

Ms Weinstock said: "The reaction has been overwhelming. Messages of congratulations and excitement at the prospect of this set actually being on store shelves have been pouring in."

Image copyright @Nasa_Hubble
Image caption The Twitter account for Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope expressed its approval

The five women portrayed are:

  • Scientist Katherine Johnson
  • Computer scientist Margaret Hamilton
  • Astronaut, physicist and educator Sally Ride
  • Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman
  • Astronaut and physician Mae Jemison

Ms Johnson was also a character in the recent, Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, which tells the story of female African-American mathematicians working at Nasa in the 1960s.

Image copyright Maia Weinstock
Image caption Katherine Johnson, a mathematician and space scientist, also featured in the 2016 Hidden Figures film

Lego Ideas spokeswoman Lise Dydensborg announced the result in a video message, accompanied by a drum roll.

She said the company was excited about the set.

"As a science editor and writer, with a strong personal interest for space exploration as well as the history of women in science and engineering, Maia Weinstock's Women of Nasa project was a way for her to celebrate accomplished women in the Stem professions," she said.

Image copyright Empics
Image caption Astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison

The so-called stem professions (science, technology, engineering and maths) are often male-dominated.

"I hope it sets a new example for both girls and boys," said Ms Weinstock. "Girls, in that they can and should be engineers, scientists, and mathematicians, and boys, in that they internalise at an early age that these careers are for everyone, not only men."

The Lego Ideas competition takes place twice a year, and one or two winners are selected for production.

Other contenders in the latest competition included Lego scenes from televisions shows The Addams Family and The Little House on the Prairie, a Lego Lamborghini and a Lego Large Hadron Collider.

One Lego fan, who runs Jay's Brick Blog, said the Nasa set was a worthy winner.

In a blog post, he said he was familiar with Margaret Hamilton's work but had to look up the other four women.

He continued, "Imagine this very scenario extended to young kids and parents taking the time to not only build this set with their kids, but to also explain who these women are and why their contributions were so important to space exploration and astronomy."

Margaret Hamilton was awarded the United States' highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, last year.

Image copyright Maia Weinstock
Image caption Computer scientist Margaret Hamilton was part of Nasa's 1969 moon mission

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