Monthly Archives: February 2018

Space Cats?

“So what in the name of Johnny Thunder shall I build next for FebRovery 2018?” thought I to myself.

I’ve built a Blacktron space jeep, and an NCS rover, and a couple of Q-Tron rovers, and a Suntron crawler, and a steampunk lunar rover, and even a zany possessed-toilet-on-wheels rover that ought really to have been left in one place rather than being made mobile. I’m kind of running out of ideas.

Pawing through the minifigures drawer for inspiration, I came across Catwoman, and was struck with the idea that a Batrover might be an idea. Or better yet, a lunar motorbike for Batman’s favourite femme fatale. I haven’t done a spacebike yet.

Catwoman’s Lunarcycle

Catwoman’s TLBM incarnation doesn’t have a fully spacesuitable mask (either spacesuit-able or space-suitable), so I’m going to have to enclose her within a capsulelike cockpit, but that seems like it’d be an interesting challenge.

And here’s the result.

Technically there’s a few small holes between the windscreen and the cockpit sidewalls, but this is as close to an enclosed-cockpit spacebike as I think I’m going to get right now.

This isn’t especially space-like, with only the enclosed cockpit and the radar dish really saying “space bike”, but it has to bridge the gap between the earthbound Catwoman and the galactic LEGO Space milieu. Making it more spacey would have meant making it less smooth and feline, and Catwoman would have probably objected.

Anyhow, I think my favourite part of this is the trapezoidal cross-section of the cockpit. And it uses element #41883. I’ve had two of these puppies ever since I started building again as an AFOL and made my first Bricklink order, and I’ve never found a use for either of them until now.

Anyway, here’s my Catwoman spacebike. Meow.

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Gemini Unification

LL/BT5601 Gemini Unification

LL/BT5601 “Gemini Unification” is a rare collaborative project between the Federation and the Blacktron Alliance.

Built as a demonstration vessel by a loose collective of visionaries in both of Humanity’s major interstellar polities, the vessel is a two-crewmember ship in side-by-side configuration, painted in half Federation Space Service and half Blacktron Stellar Command colours.

Crewed for the Federation by Lieutenant Astrid Garcia and for the Blacktron Alliance by Subcommander David Lurgan, the Gemini Unification was intended as a messenger of peace between the two interstellar empires. The project itself was successful as a starship and as a demonstrator of the possibility of peace, but despised by both empires’ High Commands. In an ironic twist, the vessel met its end at the hands of a combined Blacktron/Federation Special Forces operation specifically to take out the ship which both sides saw as an emblem of treason to their side’s cause.

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This isn’t my first dual-coloured Blacktron/Classic Space build, but the previous one was a bit more positive and optimistic.

This far into the New Year and its ongoing political chaos, apparently my cynicism is showing again.

I’m moderately pleased with that cockpit, but the fact that the astronauts have to sit with their heads together like that isn’t what I was really intending. Still, it adds a certain pseudo-romantic tone to the build, so I left it alone. The fact that the only way to fix it would have meant raising the cockpit canopy by a stud’s width has nothing to do with it, no sirree…

Anyway, there it is. A visionary unification project between the implacably hostile Blacktron Alliance and their arch-foes in the Galactic Federation.

Put like that, it’s definitely doomed, isn’t it?

Rescue Me

The Q-Tron MRCC rover encounters a downed Suntron crawler

The Mobile Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) is a large surface rover used by the Q-Tron space rescue organisation as a local networking hub and temporary headquarters for rescue and disaster-relief efforts.

Crewed by at least four and usually up to six Q-Tron personnel, the rover incorporates power-generation capacity enough to serve as an emergency power source for quite a large base; its well-shielded antimatter annihilation reactor is both dramatically smaller than any fusion generator of equivalent power and completely self-contained in the rear-mounted cylinder.

Inside the rover’s relatively capacious rear section are computers and communications gear for coordination of rescue efforts and preliminary structural analysis, as well as strategic planning of immediate and longer-term relief. There are also three small fusion units employed for production of specific raw materials via the nuclear-alchemic process of directed multi-step nuclear fusion. In this way materials like boron, oxygen, light metals such as aluminium and even heavier metals like iron can be produced in varying amounts.

A Q-Tron astronaut at the side access hatch. Fusion reactors are mounted between the forward cockpits and the rear compartment.

Computer support and survival pack stowage

Overhead view through roof dome.

Since the MRCC serves as a local headquarters, it can also deploy a number of inflatable temporary shelters to serve as accommodation for Q-Tron personnel. These double-walled chambers can be easily inflated and then buried in planetary regolith for insulation and micrometeorite protection.

The headquarters/coordination role of the MRCC rover means that it is less well-equipped for direct hands-on rescue attempts than other more specialised equipment such as the Recovery Hovercrane or the Medevac Hovercraft antigrav. This is not its role, however, and the Q-Tron organisation consider the tradeoff worthwhile.

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I’ve had it in mind to build a larger Q-Tron rover ever since I invented the theme back in November, and what better excuse to follow through on the impulse than it’s FebRovery?

This has actually turned out as a fairly conventional build; I guess my 928 Space Cruiser and Moonbase-trained building instincts still run true if I don’t deliberately step out of default.

The roof doesn’t detach, unfortunately, but the two side doors and the dome open up (and the cockpit canopies, of course). Not that anyone with hands bigger than a 4-year-old’s is going to be able to access the interior compartment by those tiny holes, but there you are.

I was thinking I still lacked sufficient tiles to smooth off the studdy floor of the interior, but then I remembered I’d acquired some more and used them on a little tablescrap build that could be taken apart for the pieces. So the interior is now tiled and looks much better.

Attention to detail. Not instinctive for me yet.

Interior Search Rover 500

A space rescue service might not necessarily have that much use for rovers. In rescue operations, speed is usually of the essence, and why crawl along the ground when you can use antigravity or rockets to fly?

However, I can see a logical niche for a small rover designed to do stuff like zoom through the corridors of a powered-down space base looking for survivors of the meteor strike that took out the power plant.

Q-Tron ISR-500 rover

Presenting the Q-Tron Interior Search Rover 500.

The ISR-500 is a small but fully-enclosed rover used for search-and-rescue operations within damaged or powerless space bases. Its small size and tiny wheel base gives it the ability to navigate through base corridors in search of trapped survivors, and powerful headlights give the operator visibility in the absence of base lighting.

A pair of small manipulator arms can be used to move obstacles or pry open bulkhead doors; these are equipped with an external power source which can be plugged into powered access doors in the event of main power failure.

This is basically Q-Tron meets FebRovery. I still have a vague idea for a large mobile Q-Tron headquarters rover, but I’m not ready to attempt that quite yet. So I thought about what other rescue situations might need a rover, and came up with this. It’s a dinky little thing and bears more than a passing resemblance to the head section of the Q-Mech, but I think the concept’s a good one and I’m pleased with the execution.

Q-Tron Returns

Even in the future, just being in space is a dangerous business. When a space base gets hit by a meteorite strike, when a moonquake buries an M:Tron rover under piles of debris, when another spaceship crashes onto the dangerous rocky planetoid of Sigma-VI, the Q-Tron Space Rescue Service are the brave women and men who go into danger to rescue the survivors.

Q-Tron Space Rescue recovery hovercrane

Though they operate many distinctive and unique vehicles specially designed for rescue operations, they also use other vehicles repurposed for space rescue and painted in their distinctive high-visibility livery. One of these is the so-called Recovery Hovercrane, a modified industrial antigrav lifter used for clearing debris fields. Its powerful tractor beams and massive grav engines allow it to quickly clear rubble and free trapped astronauts, though it also has a physical winch as a backup.

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Taking a little break from rovers, I thought I’d return to Q-Tron. I actually built this before I fully decided on its role, wanting to use those big Technic wheels I recently acquired and thinking that the big engines would make for a good reconnaissance platform.

It was only after I’d mostly finished that I thought about the utility of massive overtorqued engines for moving debris, so I decided to make it a hovercrane instead of a scout. If you have antigravity robust enough for use in semi-industrial applications like this, you ought to have tractor beams reliable enough to replace physical winches and ropes, but I added that winch anyway as an afterthought in case of emergency. I’m sure they’ll find a use for it.

When I invented Q-Tron back with the Q-Mech of last year, I selected trans blue as the windscreen element colour both because it goes well with the ambulance-y red and white livery I picked and because I have a reasonable selection of options for cockpit canopies in that colour. But I actually found myself wishing for an element I don’t have in trans blue: a 4×6 bubble canopy like the yellow one I used on the Tetrapillar rover. Obviously I have that element in other colours, but not trans blue, so I did what any builder too cheap and impatient to Bricklink every time I have an element crisis would do: I adapted something else. In the end I rather like the more angular look that resulted, but it’s undoubtedly a very different shape than the bubble canopy would have been.

Back when I first came up with the idea of Q-Tron, I hadn’t heard of anyone else taking the step of creating what’s effectively a new Classic Space theme, but the idea of Space Rescue seemed like it merited that treatment. Since then I’ve discovered builder Crimso Giger‘s “Suntron” theme of space hippies in yellow ships, as well as something called “Grey:Tron” built by Frost, though, so apparently it’s a thing to make your own Space theme.

Suntron seems a bit more generic than my Q-Tron, though; the difference being similar to that between Futuron and Ice Planet. Both are in space, but where the Ice Planeteers are focused on a particular task (cold-planet exploration), Futuron are just out there doing their civilian colonial thing. Q-Tron are a Space Rescue Service, whereas Suntron are just out there doing their bright yellow hippie thing. It’s an interesting difference.

I’m absolutely positive Q-Tron will return. There’s so many more possible Space Rescue vehicles. Among other things I have a miniature rover already built that I need to photograph and post.

Rovin’ Rovin’ Rovin’

Tetrapillar rover

What’s FebRovery without some Neoclassic Space goodness?

Carrying the flag for the blue, grey and trans yellow progenitors of LEGO Space itself, the “Tetrapillar” rover marks my third FebRovery 2018 build (but only the second posted here; I didn’t have enough to say about the steam-driven Lunar Traverser to warrant a post).

Named because its low-slung, long-bodied design put me vaguely in mind of a caterpillar, yet it only has four wheels, the Tetrapillar is piloted by a rather grouchy-looking white-suited astronaut.

In my personal interpretation of the suit colours (based loosely on pictorial evidence from the original sets and publicity photos) the white suits represent scientists while the red-suited astronauts are drivers and pilots. However, that doesn’t look like a science rover; that looks awfully like a gun mounted on the top. I daresay it could be a mass spectrometry laser or mining blaster or some such, but equally they could be shorthanded on Moonbase Delta-3 and Dr. Brickman there is miffed at having been taken away from his vital research on comets to go on perimeter patrol.

Technically the bumblebee stripes are unusual on a planetary rover, but I like the way they look there, especially rounded like that. If general theory is right that the stripes are a form of hazard striping, there’s no reason that a rover powered by a nuclear reactor or similar high-energy power source shouldn’t have them. Of course, over the several years of the Classic Space prototheme’s run there are numerous inconsistencies of technology, astronaut suit colour role and vehicular livery. There are at least three major Classic Space liveries (this one, this one and this one) and only one of them incorporates bumblebee striping.

Raven Rover

“FebRovery” is one of those months of LEGO building focus that I feel I can definitely participate in.

SHIPtember has thus far been a real stretch; about 75-80 studs’ length is about all I’ve been able to do and end up with something that’s actually good. My 2 SHIPs ended up at 101 and 103 studs respectively and both of them suffered from being overly stretched to meet the 100-stud requirement.

NoVVember I could technically do, but I’ve built my token Vic Viper and there’s not that much in the configuration that makes me want to build a whole series of them.

Droneuary, which I discovered a couple of weeks ago, is apparently for robots, and I’m not even completely convinced it’s a real thing.

But a month of focus on building space rovers? That we can do.

The whole thing does make me wonder what’s next, though. The fantasy build month of Orctober? Pirate builds in Arrrgust? DeSteamber? The mind boggles.

Anyway, FebRovery.

Raven scout rover

I wasn’t particularly sure what I wanted to do for this month of rovers at first. My initial thought was something Neoclassic, but in playing around with various suspension designs I realised that what I hit upon would probably work better with my brick inventory if I went Blacktron. So here it is.

There were numerous ways I could have gone from my initial chassis construction, but what I’ve ended up with is basically a Blacktron space jeep.

This is a completely different aesthetic to the original Blacktron sets. The designers of the Invader and the Battrax obviously groove to streamlined and sharklike rather than blocky and modernist, but the military lines of the space jeep (which I’m designating the Raven because “Raven rover” makes nice alliteration) go well with the hard-edged bad-boy feel of the Blacktron.

The suspension (if you want to call it that) won’t be winning any prizes in a Technic functionality contest, but each wheel will go up and down individually if you manually manipulate the attachments. I’m no car geek; this is as close as I come to fully-detailed V8 engines with working gearboxes and turbochargers. I build spaceships. Nuclear rockets don’t have a lot of moving parts, and no-one can tell you what a hyperdrive looks like because we don’t even know whether it’s possible.

Building the Raven in the style of a military 4×4 meant it has room for two astronauts, and with another Blacktron spaceman riding the Shadow-Wasp, all three members of my tiny Blacktron legion are currently in builds.

Despite its jet-black name, the Raven actually has more yellow than I frequently use. One thing I tend to dislike about open-cockpit Blacktron vehicles is the way the pilot disappears into the structure visually, but here I decided to give them yellow seat backs and I think it works much better. It’s a lot of yellow in one place, though, which is usually a no-no for achieving the proper Blacktron look, but this doesn’t break the arbitrary 10% cutoff.

The hoses attached to the rear-mounted cannons restrict the cannons’ firing arc a bit, at least as far as poseability goes, but I’m not getting rid of them because I like the way they look. As for the big cylinder they’re mounted to, I’m not sure whether that’s some kind of power reactor or a fuel supply or what. It’s there to be visually interesting.

Of course, two seats side by side meant I had to either equip it with dual controls or decide which side of the road the Blacktron Alliance drives on. And given an opportunity like that I decided it was too good to pass up. The Blacktrons drive on the right. The Classic Space Federation probably drive on the left.

Steering wheel on the left = Drives On The Right