• 928 Galaxy Explorer, LEGO
  • VIntage LEGO Space Set, 928 Galaxy Explorer
  • 928 Galaxy Explorer Space Set, LEGO

928 Galaxy Explorer from LEGO (1979)

Company: LEGO | Release date: 1979 | Ages: 6+ | Where to buy: eBay

Jens Nygaard Knudsen is arguably the one person who has had the most influence on what a LEGO set is. Working closely with company owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, he designed the minifigure — the smiling character at the heart of most LEGO sets. The minifigure was introduced in 1978 and determined the scale of the models released in the new Town and Space collections.

When 928 Galaxy Explorer (set number 497 in the US) arrived in 1979, it advanced what LEGO Space had started the year prior. Despite the relatively basic elements available at the time, it delivered a sleek, appealing spaceship that demanded to be flown around the room.

Although the LEGO pieces look basic by today’s standards, they were much more sophisticated than what had come before. Angular plates, conical shapes, and cockpit pieces were essential for creating cool-looking spacecraft. These specialized pieces differentiated the Space models from the Castle and Town models. Whereas previous LEGO sets were not given particularly distinct identities, the “System within the system” introduced distinct product ranges focused on particular topics or settings.

Many special bricks are showcased on the spaceship, giving the impression of engines, communications systems, antennae and either sensors or weapons. The product  designers were careful to tell their managers that any protruding parts were sensors, as there was a clear direction not to include weapons in LEGO toys at the time — but the designers knew that children would perceive them as weapons and enjoy playing out space battles.

The Galaxy Explorer spaceship was clearly fun and cool, but what made it extra special were the two baseplates that came in the box. One of them featured a printed pattern that’s clearly a landing pad, while the other featured a raised section that conveyed the sort of terrain you’d expect to find on the Moon or a meteor.

The Space sets were eagerly snatched up by children of the era because of Jens Nygaard Knudsen’s minifigure — the little character was charming in its simplicity and easy to imbue with whatever characteristics a young mind desired. What’s more, the figures were small enough that the models could be a manageable size, unlike some of the LEGO Group’s previous attempts at figures.

Over the years, 928 has become the icon for Classic Space, always held up as the quintessential set from the early theme. It’s so beloved that, for the LEGO Group’s 90th anniversary in 2022, an upscaled version launched in retro packaging. 10497 Galaxy Explorer took the classic design and modernized it while also enlarging it for adult hands. It even included the same minifigures that had been in the original version 43 years earlier.

Because this set was such a beloved part of so many childhoods, it doesn’t come cheap on the secondary market. Brand-new boxed sets do not come up for sale often. Used copies of the set currently sell for an average of $270.

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