The Top 10 Best LEGO Space Sets

16th September 2022

LEGO Space was one of the first themes to be introduced, having first appeared in 1978 alongside Town and Castle. Before it was discontinued in 2013, hundreds of Space sets were released, making it one of LEGO's most extensive themes. In Space's 35-year history, a large number of sub-themes came and went, each of which had their own unique styles and characters.

Although Space-inspired sets are still being released, these tend to be under the Ideas, Icons/Creator Expert, and City themes, and are based on traditional real-world space exploration. This differs from the Space theme, which was science-fiction based and featured fantastical starships, planetary vehicles, and space stations manned by astronauts, aliens, and robots. The Space sets were also heavily focused on playability, while their modern counterparts are more aimed at display and the adult market.

The Space theme displayed great creativity and originality and it's a shame it died at the hands of the Star Wars theme's success. Many of the factions will be remembered fondly by older LEGO fans who grew up in the 80's, 90s, and 00s. They were treated to some great and truly memorable sets over the years, and in this article we provide our list of the top ten.

10. Monorail Transport System (6990)

LEGO Monorail Transport System set

The Monorail Transport System was one of the first Futuron sets to be released in 1987. This subtheme took over from the Classic series and introduced two rival space teams, with the Futuron astronauts being the protagonists, and those from Blacktron being the enemy. Futuron did not deviate significantly from the Classic sets, as it still had a traditional element to space exploration and had humans representing the only life form.

However, this was a ground-breaking set, as although LEGO trains and 12V tracks had been around for a few years, a monorail track system had not been seen before. Throughout the 1980's, monorail transit systems were rarely seen and were almost entirely exclusive to Japan. Therefore, for most people they were seen as futuristic contraptions and so there was a lot of awe and wonder surrounding this set. LEGO only made two other monorail sets, the others being Airport Shuttle (6399) and Monorail Transport Base (6991), so the track pieces are extremely rare.

The set's predominately white design with the blue window pieces gives it a clean and modern look. Besides the working monorail, there are other play features such as a working cargo lift and small manned transport. The minifigures also look great and were a marked improvement over those in the Classic Space sets.

Amongst our criticisms are the shortness of the track layout, as the train quickly completes its loop. Subsequently the train also lacks length, as it would have been nice to have a middle carriage included between the two engines. However, the originality and uniqueness of this set earns it a place in our top ten.

9. Cosmic Fleet Voyager (6985)

LEGO Cosmic Fleet Voyager set

The Cosmic Fleet Voyager was released in 1986, towards the end of the Classic Space era. It was thus the last of the large Classic spaceships to be produced. Its 413-piece count makes it the second largest set in the subtheme, surpassed only by the (6980) Galaxy Commander. However, the proportions of the actual ship are larger than many Classic models. The CFV has some substantial bulk to it, being surprisingly tall and wide. This equates to a lot of inside space, which although sparsely furnished, creates lots of opportunities for play and customisation. It was also one of the very few ships where the pilot could access the whole interior, thanks to a central walkway, which made it one of the most realistic LEGO spaceships. Another good design feature was the CFV's ability to split in half, with the front becoming a smaller spaceship and the back acting as a landing base housing a roving vehicle. The building experience is more technical and challenging than most due to the design complexities.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the CVF is not the sleekest spaceship out there. However, its intended purpose is seen to be a transport vessel rather than a vehicle for engaging in galactic dogfights. Like other Classic Space sets, the blue, white, and yellow colour combination works incredibly well here, and as well as looking nice, the playability of the CFV is very hard to beat, with the split compartments, rover, and four minifigures offering up hours of fun.

8. Deep Freeze Defender (6973)

LEGO Deep Freeze Defender set

The Ice Planet subtheme was introduced in 1993 and centred around a friendly civilian Space team whose mission was to carry out secret research into rocket science. The setting for Ice Planet was the hostile planet of Krysto, which gave the subtheme a very distinct identity. The Deep Freeze Defender was the largest Ice Planet set, whose vast size is made up of four sections: two command modules at the front, a central rocket-launching console, and a rear hanger.

The set contains some nifty play features, such as the roof of the rocket launcher, which automatically manoeuvres the rocket into its vertical take-off position. The rear hanger had a nice sliding door and mechanism for launching the small accessory craft. One of my favourite aspects were the twin cockpits, which could be dispatched and sent on their own adventures.

The Ice Planet sets were characterised by neon orange parts such as visors, cockpit screens, chainsaws, and skis. The vividness of these pieces made this a memorable subtheme and they look fantastic when combined with the blue and white bricks. This set is the best from a well thought out theme that offered endless play potential and looked outstanding.

7. SP-Striker (6781)

LEGO SP-Striker set

The Space Police was a recurring Space theme, with the first iteration appearing in 1989. They acted as the good guys of the galaxy defending civilians from the evil Blacktron. The SP-Striker is the smallest set on this list, but its modest size doesn't detract from its quality. In fact, it only adds to its excellent playability as it can easily be picked up and swooshed around.

The design features movable wings, plenty of artillery, and a modular style detachable prison cell affixed to the ship's rear. While these are all great features, they are eclipsed by the fantastic light-up panel, which can either be permanently on or set to flash. This added an outstanding element to the build, which I remember being fascinated by as a kid. Because of the rarity of the light bricks, this set is now very hard to come by, so if you're lucky enough to own an SP-Striker, you'll be the envy of many Space collectors.

The black, blue, and red colour scheme and the extensive use of translucent bricks added to the aesthetic appeal, and it still looks good by today's standards. Due to its small size, the SP-Striker offers less playability than larger craft and it's a shame LEGO didn't replicate the light up panels in the bigger (6986) Mission Commander. If they had, or if the SP-Striker had been scaled up, there would have been a Space Police set nearer the top on this list.

6. Arachnoid Star Base (6977)

LEGO Arachnoid Star Base set

The Insectoids theme ran from 1998-1999 and consisted of an alien species called Zotaxians and their vehicles known as Insectoids, because of their insect-like appearance. The spider-styled body of the Arachnoid Star Base makes this one of the most unique and unusual Space sets to be released. Surprisingly for a science fiction and space-inspired theme, large spacecraft and vehicles manned by alien species were fairly uncommon, as the good guys, who were always humans, tended to have the biggest and best machinery. In this regard, this was a must have set for any alien fans.

The Star Base's design is not just an elaborate gimmick, as each section of the spider serves a purpose. The abdomen acts as a control room, the head as the cockpit, and the legs as magnetic cranes that harvest the “Voltstone” energy crystals. The set is full of movable and detachable parts and other elements that make it great to play with. The most memorable of these is a large light and sound brick at the centre of the build that emits three different noises, which add some life to the model.

The Star Base included a lot of interesting and rare pieces. For a nineties set, it was ahead of its time by including several excellent printed pieces, such as the two moth-like wings on the small detachable craft. The Zotaxian minifigures were some of the best-looking aliens from the Space theme due to their unusual translucent green helmets and fantastic metallic printing, and in this set you get four of them, which further adds to the set's appeal.

This set really showcases the Insectoid theme at its best. While many of the larger space sets look a bit higgledy piggledy, the Arachnoid Star Base has a harmonious quality that many of LEGO's other large spacecraft lacked.

5. Mega Core Magnetizer / Mobile Recovery Centre (6989)

LEGO Mega Core Magnetizer / Mobile Recovery Centre set

The Mega Core Magnetizer was released in 1990 as part of the M:Tron subtheme, which took over from the Futuron astronauts as the adversaries of Blacktron, along with the Space Police. The M:Tron astronauts were branded as a mining, exploration, and rescue team.

The MCM was the largest set in the M:Tron range and acted as the group's mobile rescue base, repairing centre, and launching / landing station. It's also one of the biggest Space vehicles due to its six huge wheels. Flagship sets of Space subthemes were usually starships so at the time of its release, such a large land vehicle had not been seen before. Therefore, the MCM's colossal size, combined with its striking design and giant neon green cockpit screen, made this a truly iconic set.

One of the best features of the MCM was the ability to fit all three crew members in the cockpit. The middle cargo area consisted of two large platforms for the cargo pods, which were topped with magnets that allowed them to be moved with the crane that dominates the rear section. Although LEGO magnets first appeared back in 1980 in the Trains theme, M-Tron were the first Space sets to use them and they really enhanced the play experience. The back of the MCM housed a large hanger with an intricate opening and closing process that could be used to store one of the three mini vehicles. With all the accessories and functions of the MCM it felt like a very complete set from which any galactic mission could be staged.

4. Galaxy Explorer / Space Cruiser and Moon Base (497)

LEGO Galaxy Explorer / Space Cruiser and Moon Base set

The Space Cruiser (Galaxy Explorer in the US) came out in 1979 and was one of the earliest Classic Space sets. In our opinion, it's one of the most attractive LEGO spaceships, as although the design may be simple by today's standards, it looks how a spaceship should look. The thin nose and wings, sleek body, and numerous jet engines give the Space Cruiser a great sense of speed. In addition to the beautiful design, it's also very practical, being sturdy and light enough to whoosh around easily.

On its own the Space Cruiser had good playability, but this was further enhanced by a generous selection of minifigures and the lunar base and landing pad. This set was one of the first to feature a raised baseplate, and although not everyone is a fan of them, we think it adds to the play experience. The classic design and pleasing colour scheme also make the Space Cruiser an excellent display piece and one any AFOL will want in their collection.

3. MT-201 Ultra-Drill Walker (7649)

LEGO MT-201 Ultra-Drill Walker set

The Mars Mission subtheme, which ran from 2007 to 2009, delivered some outstanding looking sets. One of these was the MT-201 Ultra-Drill Walker, which was the second largest and depicted a giant walking drill manned by human astronauts who are seeking energy crystals found on the surface of Mars.

The main drill build looks fantastic and giant legs and curved design give the contraption a sense of life. The legs are also well articulated, with movable joints at both the hip and ankle, which gives a good amount of movement. There are lots of other movable parts that are great for simulating play, much of which is around the central laser drill and its secondary cockpit. The design of the drill tip is especially good and makes it look like a cutting-edge piece of technology.

The front cockpit detaches easily to act as an observation shuttle, which itself has its own secondary vehicle concealed in its body. The alien enemy craft also has a nice design and feels sufficiently extra-terrestrial. The shimmering iridescent stickers are an inspired touch that really add to the other worldly feel.

One of the major criticisms of this set is the large amount of stickers that were required to achieve the details, with only one printed piece in the whole set. However, aside from that this was a fantastic looking set, with a great design and classy white and orange colour scheme.

2. Earth Defense HQ (7066)

LEGO Earth Defense HQ set

Alien Conquest was one of the last Space subthemes and was.unique in that the conflict between humans and aliens occurred on Earth rather than elsewhere in the galaxy. The Earth Defense HQ was released in 2011 as the flagship set and features a large and heavily armed articulated lorry as the main build. The cockpit is wide enough to seat two minifigures side-by-side, which is a great play feature. Behind the cab is a space for housing the alien capture pod, while the back trailer contains an area for scientists and storage room for the trailer accessory.

The HQ also serves as the launchpad for a small space fighter jet, which looks fantastic and on its own would have been a great set. The launchpad is movable and works very well, and is just one of many excellent design elements and play features that are packed into the lorry. There is also a charming small alien flying saucer that serves as the bad guy vehicle.

Despite being one of the most modern Space sets, the Earth Defense HQ appealed to fans of Classic Space because of the nostalgic blue, grey, and yellow colour scheme. Besides also looking great, this is one of the most engaging Space sets LEGO made, with something of interest at every turn. As a play set, we cannot find fault, but its display potential is not as high as some, so for that reason it narrowly misses out on the top spot.

1. Galaxy Explorer (10497)

LEGO Galaxy Explorer set

While technically not a Space set, the recently released Galaxy Explorer encapsulates Classic Space and so deserves a place on this list. Produced to commemorate LEGO's 90th Anniversary, the Galaxy Explorer is a modern remake of the original set (497 / 928). The 1970's Galaxy Explorer was a brilliant set in its own right (hence why it also made this list) but this replica improves upon the design by updating it with four decades worth of developments in part moulding, building techniques, and set design. The result is an exceptional model that's pretty much perfect.

The Galaxy Explorer takes its source material and adds a high degree of sophistication to every design element, while still retaining the beautiful and sleek aesthetics. Some noteworthy features are the reimagined rear storage unit for the moon buggy, a new sliding airlock door, retractable landing gear, and a more detailed interior with an absence of stickered parts. The enlarged cockpit also now has room for all four included minifigures to sit together, which is a nice touch.

Being 50% larger than the original, the new Galaxy Explorer is trickier to whoosh around single-handedly, but it does make for a much more impressive display piece. Rather than acting as a replacement, the new Galaxy Explorer complements the old version, as they look great when shown side-by-side. With its stunning and sophisticated design, amazing display value, and no criticisms other than its slight unwieldiness, this set takes the top spot.

Posted by Graham on 16th September 2022

Graham is a passionate LEGO collector, who has a penchant for the Castle, Pirates, and Western themes. You can usually find him monitoring the latest developments and giving his opinion on what's hot and not in the LEGO world.