The Juno space probe is set to launch atop an Atlas V rocket this Friday, but GeekDad reports that in addition to its full complement of scientific instruments it will also bring a bit of whimsy with it.
The probe, which will ultimately careen through Jupiter’s atmosphere on a scientific suicide run, has just been revealed to be carrying three Lego minifigs on its voyage.
Considering the nature of the mission, not just any minifigs have been permitted to make the flight. Instead of the classic yellow plastic models, Lego has designed and produced three aluminum variants in the shape of the Roman god Jupiter, his sister (and the probe’s namesake) Juno, and the astronomer Galileo.
The project originated at NASA, who reportedly took the idea to the highly receptive toy company. Each of the three has been designed to look like their namesakes, with Jupiter wielding thunderbolts, Juno with a magnifying glass, and Galileo with his trusty telescope.
They’ll be in for a bit of a ride though: Juno’s intended flight path will take them for a spin in the outer solar system before doubling back toward Jupiter. The total travel time? Something like five years, with a year on the books for Juno to record and map the planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields.
Interested in tracking the toys on their far-flung journey? Lego’s set up a site where all you space fans can keep track.