Monday, September 10, 2012

Curiosity Hot Wheels

NASA's Curiosity rover is soon to become the latest Hot Wheels toy. Mattel, Inc., maker of Hot Wheels, is set to make a 1:64 scale miniature of the "Mars Rover Curiosity" as part of an assortment of 247 toy cars for 2012. The toy's product description says that "Curiosity carries many tools such as a drill, cameras and a laser. Its mission [is] to see if Mars could have ever supported small life forms called microbes... or if humans could explore there some day!

This isn't the first time that Mattel has teamed up with NASA to bring sciency toys to the playroom. Fifteen years ago, Mattel worked with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) to produce the "JPL Sojourner Mars Rover Action Pack Set," a miniature of Curiosity's much smaller, much older cousin, the Sojourner rover which landed as part of NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission on July 4, 1997. Unlike the new Curiosity set, this "Action Pack" came with three miniatures - the rover, its lander and spacecraft cruise stage. The Sojourner action pack quickly sold out, to the point that Mattel reissued it a few times and even released a celebratory 24-karat gold plated version. After this huge success, Mattel brought out a pack recreating the Jupiter-orbiting Galileo probe, followed by a set for the Apollo moon landings, John Glenn's space shuttle mission in 1998, and finally a pack that included scale models of NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter, Deep Space 2 Microprobe and Mars Polar Lander. Even those those Mars spacecraft failed, the toy set sold. Since this last release in 1999, Hot Wheels has not released any NASA mission toys. Even for the highly successful Spirit and Opportunity rovers (although these were released by LEGO and other toy companies).

Want even more Curiosity to play with? NASA has partnered with Microsoft to release an Xbox 360 video game that puts the player in control of the rover's landing. They have also introduced an Apple iPad app where a player can use augmented reality to access a virtual, 3-D Curiosity model.

Who says science isn't fun? I'm seeing some good gift opportunities here!

(via and collectSPACE)

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