Planetary Blocks: Our Solar System
A set of 20 Solar System toy blocks. featuring 8 planets, 8 moons, 3 dwarf planets and just one star.
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, June 6 2019 3:15 AM UTC +00:00.
Want to know something?
There ARE more than just eight PLANETS.
Yes we love Pluto, too, but why do we put all the focus on these particular eight bodies simply because they orbit the Sun? With all due respect to Copernicus, we would like to propose a whole new way of looking at our local celestial neighborhood…
Introducing the 20 WORLDS* of our Solar System!
*Okay, so it's technically 19 worlds and a star, but we really like round numbers.
Amazingly, our Solar System has many worlds. We define a world as any place in the universe that is so impressive it beckons humans to explore it. We have collected 20 intriguing bodies from our local celestial neighborhood and transferred them onto 1.75" toy blocks! Our set includes eight planets, eight moons, three dwarf planets, and one star.
ACCURACY CAN BE FUN!
We hesitate to call these toy blocks because they're designed for more than just kids. We think these celestial blocks have a little something for everyone! While toddlers will be drawn in by the art of each world, an older child will understand the relative sizes to one another and the vast distances between these worlds. But we hope the new data considerations on each block will have curious people of all ages contemplating our celestial neighborhood.
Other faces at the blocks get at concepts that are still mysterious to professional planetary scientists. We can’t see what’s deep inside these worlds, but we can make educated, physics-based guesses as to what they’re made of. The gas giants are probably made of hydrogen so dense that it’s crushed into a metal! Ganymede probably has lots of layers of solid ice and liquid ocean! What other mysteries lurk inside?
All of the scientific data featured in this project has been researched by Emily Lakdawalla with fact-checking from Bruce Betts of The Planetary Society. Our knowledge of the Solar System is ever-evolving, so some of the concepts may be subject to change over time. But that’s a good thing, because it means humans are learning more about our solar system neighbors.
If you want to know more, be sure to check out Emily’s deep dive on how the science was researched, how we selected our twenty and even her take on what a set of forty worlds would look like.
WE HAVE PROTOTYPES
We’ve been working on this for over a year and are further along in the process than one might expect. Not only has the art been completed and the science reviewed, but we have also produced several prototypes. You can see the third one at the top of this page with all 20 blocks laid out in a grid. We expect new prototypes by the end of May and pictures will be posted.
Many names will be familiar like Earth, Mars, and the Moon, but there are some that are less well known—like Ganymede or Enceladus. We’ve included phonetics below each name to help. Then just to be cool, we etched the type out from the block set within a flood of color emblematic for that particular world (see detail above). Now that you know what it is, how much do you love debossed typography?
This is the side that gets all the eyeballs. We have illustrated each body to include real features observed from the various missions that have explored them. Each is illustrated in our signature graphic style and composed of four or five colors, creating an idealized yet accurate interpretation of each world.
The Earth fills one side out comfortably and becomes the standard to compare all the others. By placing other blocks next to one another, you get a real sense of how large each celestial body is. It is surprising to see how much smaller Mars is compared to Earth.
There are other surprises as well! There are two moons (Ganymede and Titan) which are larger than the planet Mercury, yet most people have never even heard of them simply because they revolve around their host planet, rather than the Sun.
When all the blocks are placed in order, the larger planets visibly expand across multiple blocks to show their relatives scales. For example, Jupiter is much larger than its block, so it spreads out across Mars and Ceres on one side and Io and Europa on the other. Likewise, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune take up space on adjacent blocks. The Sun actually encompasses the entire set! All 20 blocks are still not enough to get a true sense of the Sun’s relative size.”
For more, see our first Explainer Video above for a walk through how the Scale side works.
THE ORBITS (LOCATION AND DISTANCE)
The scale of planetary orbits and representing the distances found in between celestial bodies presented a unique design challenge. This is because the outer planets are spread out between one another with much greater distances than are the inner planets, and the dwarf planets Pluto and Eris are cast out even further with highly irregular orbits.
If we tried to display all the planetary orbits in one view to scale, the inner planets would practically disappear into an area so tiny you could not see Mercury to Mars. So, we decided to provide three different scales (0-1.5 AU, 0-30 AU, and 0-100 AU) to have a full comparative view of the Solar System.
Note: An AU is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun.
The orbital distances between the moons and their planets are on a much smaller scale, but a relatively similar scale to our own moon, so we use the LD (lunar distance) scale in the place of AU. And we oriented the display vertically to underscore that the Sun is not the center of these systems!
Note: An LD is the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Due to all the various scales required to accurately represent the layout of the Solar System, we also included a handy tool at the bottom of each block to help orient the viewer. This will give a basic view of where any given body is located within the larger context of the whole system.
For more, see our second Explainer Video above to better understand how the Orbit side works. Note the video shows an older design which has been revised since.
We thought it would be interesting to compare each body’s mettle–or in some cases metal! The core illustrations show details such as layers of rock, atmospheres, molten rock, and some pretty mysterious stuff like liquid and metallic hydrogen or something known as a “radiative zone.” Some worlds also include geologic features such as oceans, lakes, volcanoes, ice-volcanos, and geysers.
While these core diagrams are theoretical, they’re based on the most recent data available. There is no easy way to know for sure what is happening inside many of these bodies, but thanks to The Planetary Society, we have access to some of the world’s foremost planetary scientists.
We enjoy the luxury of living in the first and only era when humans first laid eyes on dozens of the worlds of the solar system, turning them from faint points of light to real places.” This project would not be possible without the dedication of the men and women who build the machines that can take us to new worlds. So, the final side of the block names some significant missions to each of these worlds, with the flagship mission illustrated. Some places like Earth, Mars and the Moon have had many missions, so we had to try and curate the selections based on the various missions’ scientific and historical importance. Others, such as Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto have had few missions and, in those cases, our list goes only one mission deep.
Note: Eris is nearly as big as Pluto and more massive. Its 2005 discovery caused the crisis that resulted in the 2006 definition of a new class of solar system world, the dwarf planet, with Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake the first designated members of that class.”
We are working on getting the official language of child safety from the manufacturer. Each block measures 1.75" square.
Here is a quick look at what we might be planning. More to come soon.
- Retail box design
- An expanded science and informational fold-out
- Display Tray or Printed Canvas Bag
- Another four blocks (bodies featured TBD)
Here is a look at the layout template to be used for each of the blocks.
THE OTHER REWARDS
The original first two Robotic Spacecraft Series screen prints. Options include Voyager (orange version), Mars Exploration, Sputnik, New Horizons, Rosetta and Galileo. Cassini and Curiosity are currently out of print as screen prints.
The Giant Leaps in Space poster series. Options include Apollo, ISS and Vostok.
The archival digital print versions of our space exploration prints. All missions are available in this format including Cassini, Curiosity and the original blue Voyager.
Our space exploration themed tees. Options include Above Earth (23 Earth space missions), Apollo, Beyond Earth (23 deep space missions), Curiosity, Greatness to Come (w/Space Shuttle), ISS, Sputnik, Voyager or You Are the Sun. Size options include unisex SML, MED, LRG, XL and 2X. We do have sizes for women and kids but some designs may be sold out in some sizes. Please inquire.
The Planetary Society Scarf (based on our You Are the Sun tee above). All eight planets, seven major moons, and the Asteroid Belt. Each end is capped off by the Sun and Kuiper Belt.
ABOUT CHOP SHOP (THOMAS ROMER)
Thomas Romer is the designer, illustrator and founder of Chop Shop Store and Studio based in Philadelphia, PA. The shop specializes in t-shirts, posters, and other merchandise; a fun spin off of a design studio with over 20 years of experience in interactive, animation, illustration and design. Recent partners have included SETI Institute, Radiotopia (including 99% Invisible and many more), Radiolab, Yuri’s Night and The Planetary Society!
Chop Shop is also the host of The Planetary Society's official online store which can be found at www.planetary.org/store.
Before the Shop, Thomas was a founding partner in Chopping Block, an interactive studio based in NYC from ’96-’14. Clients included MoMA, Turner Classic Movies, They Might Be Giants, Phish, Disney, Miramax Studios, Nickelodeon, Sony Picture Classics and many more.
ABOUT THE PLANETARY SOCIETY
In 1980, Carl Sagan, Louis Friedman, and Bruce Murray founded The Planetary Society. They saw that there was enormous public interest in space, but that this was not reflected in government, as NASA’s budget was cut again and again. Today, The Planetary Society continues this work, under the leadership of CEO Bill Nye, as the world’s largest and most influential non-profit space organization. The organization is supported by over 50,000 members in over 100 countries, and by hundreds of volunteers around the world.
The Society’s mission is to empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration. They advocate for space and planetary science funding in government, inspire and educate people around the world, and develop and fund groundbreaking space science and technology. For more information on how to join, visit www.planetary.org/membership.
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk here is timing. We have never produced an item made from wood before and the process is unlike anything else we have produced. So we are not exactly sure how long it might take to get a final prototype made, approved and then the time to produce and deliver.
We have already had prototypes made and more will come to ensure that the quality and graphics are what we expect them to be for the final product.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- All gone!