[REVIEW] 10266 Apollo Lander - The Hoax

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12 April, 1961, the President is interrupted during a private moment with news that Russia has sent a man into space.

25 May 1961, the President stood before congress and proposed that the USA commit to landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In September 1962, he stood before 40000 people and announced that We choose to go to the moon!

However, by 1966, with a new president in charge, budget overruns and little progress, in a secret meeting with top science advisors and NASA officials, the presidency passed the highly classified Lunar Exploration Geopolitical Ordinance no. 102 of 1966, which later became known as LEGO 10266. It described creating a realistic enactment of a lunar landing, to fool the Russians and the general US populace.
50 years later the documents have been declassified.

A team of construction experts, and a media crew, was carefully selected for the project.

All materials developed thus far were packed in a sturdy box which was delivered to the assembly site. The box contained artistic impressions of what the lunar mission should look like, and special features present on the lunar lander mock-up. Workers confirmed that the space suits within should be a good fit!


All materials where packaged in individual sterile bags, straight from the assembly lab at the JPL. Bags where numbered 1-4, with 1 unnumbered bag, which correspond to various stages of the project build. A large instruction booklet was included, which had several pages of background information about the proposed moon landings, and further information on the current project at hand. A blueprint of the lander was included, which workers carefully studied.


A large sticker sheet was included – which was a little disappointing. Surely a project of this magnitude and budget should have allowed for printed parts? Perhaps the budget cuts were more severe than anyone imagined. It seems printed parts stay in the realm of ideas ®

In order to stage a good moon landing, you need to start with a good stage. Bags 1, and the unnumbered bag, are used to create the stage. Construction of the base is suitably solid, with details added to recreate the moon surface. The instructions also outline new parts added in each step in red, the first time the construction crew had noted such markings.


Some of the parts for the stage showed distinct moulding marks, which had not been seen under the previous administration. Budget overruns on the space program where starting to show.

It is nice to note that the mission designation tile IS printed! Once the base is complete, it provides a good stage for the apparent lunar landing to filmed, and secure spots for landing legs to rest in. The crater adds some moon drama, but for the purists dedicated to finding fault with the staged landings, a crater is probably not the best place to touch down.

Bag 1 also contains the first astronaut mannequins. Outfit options were lined up, but opinion polls had shown that the “1980's space man” look was just too futuristic for the audience of the time, and so a re-purposed divers outfit was used. The torso of the main suit is printed with a nice NASA logo, but this is completely obscured by the diving overlay. The choice probably is most representative of the bulky spacesuits of the era. Note that there are no hair pieces for the astronauts, either they're fully suited up, or they're bald! The helmet sections also have a nasty habit of popping off with minimal handling, not a tight fit like other helmets/hair pieces.


The faces of the astronauts differ slightly. Guess which one is scheduled to take that first “giant leap for mankind”?

After a few short weeks of hard work, the staging area was complete. The film crew did a few test runs with the astronaut mannequins on the landing stage to fine tune the lighting and ensure realism was acceptable. LEGO 10266 passed all phase 1 testing, authorisation was given to proceed to phase 2.

Results of some of the lighting tests have been made available - flag relays and crater accidents. Later, events these were removed from the official simulated landing program. It was thought they may raise suspicions with Russian analysts...

Phase 2 begins.
The designer had stated an objective was to capture his envisioned octagonal shape for a space craft. The best method to capture an octagonal shape, is to start with an octagonal frame. Makes sense...

It all looked so easy on the blueprint, but the construction crew found that SNOT techniques could be a little challenging!

“Click Klick Katt”
While generic construction worker no.1 struggled with clicking, generic construction worker no. 2 was confused as to why they had to bring a cat?

After a tough morning of building, time for a smoke break behind the oxidizer and fuel drums. Fortunately, for everyone involved, they where empty!

The octagon is slowly taking shape. It must be noted, that until the four light grey 2x4 plates are fitted, it is extremely fragile, and falls apart just by glancing at it with a mildly unfriendly expression! Handle with great care! (Not just because of the rocket fuel on board)

More plates fitted to cover the gaps and strengthen the frame. It's a hard days work, but somehow, you can always manage a smile!! And that hard labour completes Phase 2 of the project.


Phase 3: The blueprints called for gold foil lining. NASA's overstretched budget cannot afford gold foil. Especially for something destined for a warehouse and not outer space. Luckily, being prepared in a Hollywood studio as it was, much Hollywood gold was found in the Wild Wild West studio next door.

Some of the gold was noticeably fake. Hopefully it could be hidden in a way that would not be readily seen by hoax-busters. It's a pity, for such a high class project, to have to make do with defective parts.

Gold is in place, but now there is a mess of Technic parts! What a headache!

Once the Technic was figured out, and final touches added to the base of the lunar lander, it turns out to be a pretty sturdy piece of engineering. It is a pity that those colour coded fuel and oxidizer tanks are no longer visible, but at least there is some left over gold for the workers to take home!

Are these landing legs that are being built, or something much, much more interesting?!

“I feel like a princess!!”

And with that, phase 3 is complete. Again, testing to ensure phase 3 meets requirements was successful. The stage supported the lander without showing signs of collapse. Basic mannequin placements where tested to ensure they could interact properly with the model. Authorisation was given to proceed to phase 4.

When starting a new day, it is always helpful to start with a fresh pair of pants. Thus phase 4 started with building a washing machine. Or so the constitution worker thought... After nothing happened for a while, and still nothing happened for a while longer, he realised it was in fact not a washing machine, but the roof of the module.

The work was ahead of schedule, and workers found time to relax with some bumper cars. After some fun, and a degree of whiplash, they turned them over and carefully applied stickers to simulate instrument panels, and would later use them to form part of the module structure.


In typical government department fashion, after completely underspending on the gold foil and printed parts, NASA provided fuel cells to be installed into the fake lunar module. This may be understandable if they could actually be seen by careful analysts scrutinising the landing footage, but they are completely built into the wall structure of the ascent stage, only the workers themselves would know they are there. Millions could have been saved by just using a standard 4x2 black brick.

The basic structure of the ascent stage has studs not only not-on-top, but also on the bottom, the sides, inside out, upside down... and enough space for 2 astronauts to stand. No recreational space available though.

Exiting through the hatch, for a fully suited astronaut, has been likened to giving birth. Hands at the sides, twisted slightly to pass through the small orifice. Even one hand up will lead to a breached delivery, and you know how difficult it is to find a good Astro-obstetrician on the moon surface! Luckily it was never intended to go to the actual moon..!

At this stage, it seems the administration realised that there was never going to be a moon landing. Time was short, budget was depleted, and the last section of the ascent stage is just thrown together in a standard building technique of slapping blocks on top of each other. It is the least exciting part of the whole project, but just something that has to be done.


The model is finally completed. It compares favourably to the earlier scale models of the moon landing project, and was believed to be much more realistic, and believable, than the smaller model. It's all in the details!

The film crew gets ready for the big moment. Months of hard work all culminate in this – will the staged moon landings hand the tempo in the space race back to the USA?

Lights, camera, action!
“That's one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind”

And the rest, as they say, is history!

In summary, LEGO 10266 NASA Apollo Lunar Lander is a great set to build, filled with interesting construction techniques, and makes an amazing display piece for any space fan, LEGO fan, or anyone who is wowed by the amazing achievements of mankind 50 years ago, using asmuch computing power as a modern desk calculator.
I hope it helps bring some of the wonder of that time into perspective for a new generation, as it has with me. And, by reading this review, you can see that even historical sets designed for display can have great play value!

Edited by beach_dr

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Such a brilliant, hilarious review! :classic: How can it be that I haven't spotted this gem earlier?

Excellent photography too. Especially the harsh moon-lighting is done really well! :thumbup:

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Thanks for the thumbs up!

Nice to know that someone enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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The best review I’ve read. I love the approach you took & the way you told the story. I also really love when minifigs build sets, so that’s a huge plus. Great job!

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