Mattel #5453 Space Exploration Game

#5453 Space Exploration Game Box Top

A fairly simplistic game, the object was to explore the moon for signs of life. The first astronaut who returns to the space ship and can identify the location of three signs of life is the winner.

The game contained four astronauts, Major Matt Mason, Sgt Storm, Capt. Chuck and Lt. Len. There are four matching command posts to go with each explorer, and twelve Moon cards, (four each of: Moon Flowers, Moon Bones, Moon Skull, and No Sign of Life). The spinner displays a really cool picture of the Major riding belly-down on a red sled... perhaps the precursor to the Reconojet. 

Game Components:

#5453 Space Exploration Game Board
#5453 Space Exploration Game Instructions
#5453 Space Exploration Game Tokens/Black Stands
#5453 Space Exploration Game Spinner
#5453 Space Exploration Game Moon Crater and Chits
The colorful board was molded in Vacuform, with spots corresponding to steps, or locations on the spinner. It is covered with mountains, craters, and small images of MMM riding vehicles or doing "tasks." A really interesting spinning volcano rested in the center. Two to four players would have had a blast playing the game, or at least enjoying the graphics of the board and pieces.
#5453 Space Exploration Game Box Bottom
#5453 Space Exploration Game Unused Contents
#5453 Space Exploration Game Box Back
#5453 Space Exploration Game Box Front


The box is two-colored litho with a full-color, process-printed label. The image is quite stunning... in a 70's LeRoy Neiman-esque loose painted style. The box is an unusual, clam-shell type where the top inserts into the edges of the bottom. The bottom pictures stylized renderings of all four games offered (see below). As with most pizza-size boxes these often suffer from caved-in lids from having items stacked on top. Dimensions are 19" x 19" x 3" Copyright is 1967.

Mattel Catalog Specifications:

(First appearance: Mattel Toys January 1968 Catalog Page 54)
At the foot of a spinning "live" volcano, Major MATT MASON and 3 space pals trek across molded moonscape for signs of life. Players secretly check moon cards to identify where life exists!
  • 3-D molded plastic game boards 18" x 18"
  • Real-action parts that move
  • Washable vinyl playing pieces
  • For 2, 3, 4 Players
  • All complete playing equipment included
  • Each in Std Pack: 6/12 Doz. Wt: 9 Lbs.


  • The game could come with different colored bases for the game tokens. I've seen black and green.
  • Some game boards have a different image in the lower left corner/edge. Most have the Space Ship with Space Exploration Game written across it. Some have a Crawler instead of the Space Ship (I remember seeing a photo but haven't owned one so take this with a grain of salt).

John's Notes:

The game was released with 3 others, each with some type of gimmick:

For some reason, Mattel released these games in their January Catalog (sometimes called the Spring Introductions Catalog) with a single page ad. This was expanded to two pages for the Toy Fair Catalog, then back to one page in their regular Fall offering. It's my guess that the interest in these large, expensive games was lukewarm, as the game was only offered in 1968. They would have taken up quite a bit of shelf space, and the 3-D board was a novelty that would quickly wear thin on the public.

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