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We Came In Peace For All Mankind

The aim of this project was to build an accurately represented model of the Apollo 11 spacecraft as they would have appeared in July of 1969 in lunar orbit just prior to undocking, descent and landing. I set about collecting the kits needed and assembling reference material (much of it available on the internet). I knew full well that the available injection-molded kits were notorious for their inaccuracies in that they represented earlier prototype spacecraft and not the flight variants, and had generally poor fit and soft (or non-existent!) detail. This was going to be a long-term project, but one I knew would give me the model I've always wanted on my display shelf.
Kits Used
Revell - "Lunar Module Eagle and Spacecraft Columbia" - 1/48th scale re-issue
Monogram - "First Lunar Landing" - 1/48 scale re-issue
First Small Step....
After opening the Eagle/Columbia kit, it was obvious that the lunar module was toy-like in appearance and was going to unsuitable. The folding legs are an interesting feature allowing one to produce a decent representation of the spacecraft stack which sat atop the third stage, but would be inaccurate for a detailed "desktop" model. This led to using the First Lunar Landing kit for the LM instead. It's much better in its appearance and level of detail, but extensive modifications would still be required. The CSM was a better kit in comparison and with update and modifications would also be fine. Still, it was representative of the Block 1 prototype and would need to be heavily modified to represent the Block 2 spacecraft that actually flew the lunar missions. The exposed equipment sections that could be revealed behind opening panels on the SM hull were a nice touch, but again, this is a Block 1 representation and not accurately portrayed as this equipment bay ended up being redesigned and relocated to a different quadrant in the hull in the flight variants. The launch escape tower system, the SLA panels (the streamlined adapter fairing that covered the LM during launch and connected the third stage to the CSM) and the adapter ring representing the top of the third stage would not be required for this model.
Construction and Modifications
Command Module:
The overall size and shape were satisfactory, so most of the modifications required were because of the kit's Block 1 representation. Also, much of the smaller detail was missing and would have to be scratchbuilt.
This is what was done:
  • removing the incorrectly shaped and improperly located CSM umbilical and scratchbuilding one in the +Z axis position using an acrylic block,
  • repositioning outboard square windows to correct location and scratchbuilding combing. Windows were fashioned using kit supplied acetate sheet,
  • filling docking windows with Microscale's Krystal-Kleer,
  • scratchbuilding new main hatch with proper combing, handle and square/round combination for interior and exterior double pane window using acetate sheet,
  • adding exterior rescue, tanking and hatch operation decals,
  • scratchbuilding navigation optics in the +Z axis position,
  • correcting the height overall of the CM by removing 1/8th inch from docking collar and fairing it over,
  • scratchbuilding docking collar portion visible after mating with LM using laminated sheet styrene and carved bits of plastruct,
  • scratchbuilding EVA handles from thin styrene sheet,
  • filling in attachment points for Scimitar antennae (to be relocated to SM hull),
  • reworking RCS jets to proper configuration around base of CM near heatshield and also near the docking collar to a port and starboard orientation instead of fore and aft,
  • removing surface detail and re-scribing panel lines,
  • using bright chrome bare metal foil scribed in strips to replicate the kapton thermal tape coating.

  • Service Module:
    The overall size and shape were also satisfactory but again, the modifications required were because of the kit's Block 1 representation. All the surface detail and equipment would have to be built from scratch with the exception of the RCS system, which was usable with modifications. This is what was done:
  • removing the improperly positioned CSM umbilical and fairing over the hole left in the SM hull,
  • removing enough surface detail so that the SM hull could be wrapped with a thin styrene sheet cylinder - this allowed new panel and rivet detail to be scribed and fabricated from scratch,
  • fabricating new radiator panels from white corrugated railroad stock sheet,
  • relocating two scratchbuilt Scimitar antennae to proper location on SM hull,
  • drilling out and thinning RCS engine bells to scale appearance,
  • scrapping the aft heatshield and fabricating a new one with the correct shape from laminated styrene sheet, the body of a small personal size AM/FM radio, plastic doweling and pen barrel parts,
  • scratchbuilding aft heatshield umbilical connections using short lengths of plastic tube,
  • removing extra surface detail from SPS engine bell and "thinning down" the remaining stiffener ring,
  • scratchbuilding a complete high-gain antenna assembly from thin styrene sheet (for antenna dish frames), acrylic blocks, stretched sprue and my wife's black pantyhose (for antenna mesh),
  • very thin styrene sheet cut to small disc and rectangle shapes added to hull to replicate various panels and fittings,
  • scratchbuilding umbilical connection between forward radiator panels using small lengths of sewing pins and stretched sprue,
  • individually cut decal letters and U.S. flags from kit supplied sheet laid over top of white decal film rectangle for markings on SM hull,
  • decals borrowed from spares for stenciling on RCS quadrants.

  • Lunar Module:
    It became quickly apparent that the kit-supplied gold foil was too yellow and thick in its appearance, so the search was on for something that would be a closer color and weight match. Also, applying the foil directly to the kit supplied descent stage hexagonal "box" was going to look like foil glued to plastic and therefore not having the right appearance, so a plan was needed as to how to more faithfully represent the mylar and kapton thermal coatings. This area had to look like there weren't any solid panels behind the foil - it needed to look "flimsy". A source for correctly colored gold foil was also researched heavily. After extensive experimentation (and consumption!), chocolate bar wrapper foil was found to be the right weight and shade of gold color. The paper backing would make a good adhesion layer as well. Some of the kit supplied foil was used in small quantities to simulate varying thickness or "weights" of foil. The aluminum skin covering most of the ascent stage also had a slightly wrinkled or warped appearance on the real hardware caused by flight stresses, so simply using aluminum paint wouldn't be satisfactory. The various antennae and radar dishes were crudely molded showing only the barest minimum of detail, so replacing or reworking all these items would be required. Also, much of the surface detail was missing and would have to be scratchbuilt.

    Ascent Stage
    This is what was done:
  • scratchbuild small rectangular docking window in the overhead above commanders position using sheet styrene laminate and kit supplied acetate,
  • sanding and filling all seams after gluing forward and mid-deck sections together,
  • cover aluminum sections with individually cut-to-fit kitchen foil panels (dull side out or shiny side out depending on the desired appearance) to replicate anodized thermal coatings,
  • simulate joints between panels using silver paint to replicate thin metal strips,
  • add forward windows from kit supplied acetate after scribing horizon reference markings along edges of windows,
  • strengthen, enclose and fair over docking hatch area and insert 1/8" brass tubing vertically through top of blanked off hatch and secure to top of engine bell to strengthen the attachment to CSM,
  • rework area at the forward part of the cabin roof to accurately replicate attachment point for rendezvous radar using acrylic blocks sanded to shape and styrene strip triangles cut to shape,
  • remove kit supplied rendezvous radar dish from its mount and remove poorly molded feed horn assembly,
  • after re-working the dish, scratchbuild new feed horn assembly from shaped and stretched black sprue and re-attach to reshaped kit supplied mounts,
  • keep steerable s-band antenna after thinning dish, scribe ribs in the associated electronics package and scratchbuild tripod mount from stretched sprue,
  • the fore and aft UHF antennae were useless, scratchbuilt new ones from various thicknesses of stretched sprue. Used very thin lengths that had been tightly wound around a small diameter tube or paintbrush handle and cut to length to replicate the spiral shape of the extended antennae. Also made new tripod mounts from stretched sprue,
  • removed all surface detail from vertical area above forward hatch,
  • scratchbuilt docking strobe light by attaching a disc of kitchen foil (shiny side out) to a slightly larger disc of thin white styrene sheet. Held a length of clear sprue against a candle (not too close!!) until a dome shaped bubble appears of the right size, use a razor saw to cut this dome from the sprue and attach to foil disc, add tiny bits of stretched sprue to simulate inboard running lights and antenna,
  • scratchbuild EVA handrail and mounts on port side of "face",
  • add detail to porch "roof" with thin strips and triangles of kitchen foil,
  • add outboard port and starboard running lights with small bits of stretched sprue,
  • add small antennae to aft instrument section using bits of stretched sprue,
  • scratchbuild CM docking target using thin white styrene sheet layered in domed shapes, hand painted white dots to simulate graduations, add "tee" shape using a bit of carved sprue attached to stretched sprue pole,
  • rework RCS quadrants to more realistic shape and add kitchen foil (shiny side out this time) and black painted sections,
  • drill out and thin RCS engine bells to scale,
  • scratchbuild folding EVA antenna to fit on cabin roof from stretched sprue and a cone shaped piece of transparent plastic shopping bag,
  • cover area around main engine and various small panels with gold foil including areas around forward hatch,
  • add various small disc shaped bits of kitchen foil covered styrene to simulate vents or lunar surface EVA exterior lights,
  • add short length of small diameter carved styrene tube to fairing on cabin roof aft of rendezvous antenna for vent pipe.

  • Decent Stage
    This is what was done:
  • scrap hexagonal "box" structure and construct plastruct frame linking upper and lower heatshield. A Testor's spray can lid was the perfect size to use as a strengthening device joining the two kit parts together along their centerline axis,
  • construct additional plastruct frames where gold foil and black thermal panels would meet to create glue attachment points for the panels,
  • rework upper landing strut shock absorbers. They are reversed on the kit and should have the apex of the cone pointing outboard instead of inboard. Heavy typing paper was used to replicate the black foil covering and a sharp no. 11 blade was used to carve up the remaining plastic to simulate the wrinkled foil appearance,
  • cover folding portions of landing legs with gold foil, bright chrome bare metal foil or paint flat black where appropriate,
  • cover decent stage panel areas with slightly wrinkled gold foil or flat black painted typing paper (to replicate black thermal foil) using the plastruct frames as attachment points,
  • used stretched sprue to manufacture a 1/2" wide and 1/4" deep hexagon shaped flat-topped dome, cover with typing paper painted black and attach to black painted panel on starboard quarter of decent stage "box",
  • cover landing legs with gold foil or bare metal foil as required and paint upper attachment section with aluminum paint where the landing leg joins the upper landing strut shock absorbers,
  • cover footpads with gold foil and semicircles of flack black painted typing paper to replicate additional layer of thermal foil (to guard against engine exhaust plume heat while legs are folded),
  • replicate three lunar contact probes from gold foil covered paperclip sections cut to 6' scale length and insert into drilled holes on bottom of port, starboard and aft footpads. The forward footpad (the one with the ladder) didn't have a contact probe. Grumman felt that a bent up probe might impede the astronauts when descending the ladder for moonwalks),
  • scrap kit supplied RCS exhaust plume shields and scratchbuild new ones from thin styrene sheet painting outside flat black (showing some slight RCS scarring) and cover the inside with bright chrome bare metal foil. Scrape away mold separation lines from plume shield support struts (this also has the effect of thinning them down to more of a scale appearance) and scratchbuild attachments rails for the plume shields,
  • scrape mold separation lines from kit supplied ladder (this "thins" this part down as well) and attach to forward landing leg. Cover attachment points with small bits of silver foil and make a small kitchen foil dedication plaque to attach to forward leg between 3rd and 4th rung. This was covered by a protective film until the first surface EVA, so surface detail isn't necessary,
  • scratchbuild a trough from thin styrene sheet to attach to the starboard side of the ladder. Also cover a length of thin stretched sprue with gold foil and place in the trough. This trough held the flag that was planted on the moon.
  • rework the kit supplied porch to shorten its length by cutting off 4 ribs, reform and thin down porch handrails,
  • use very thin stretched sprue to replicate the pull handle that Armstrong used as he was descending the ladder to open the access panel and activate the TV camera, paint the assembly aluminum and attach to starboard side of porch,
  • cover lower heatshield with gold foil, upper heatshield has wide strips of gold foil laid over top of black painted surface forming a gold "+" when viewed from above and looking forward,
  • thin descent engine bell to scale appearance,
  • scratchbuild landing radar from acrylic block and attached to lower heatshield,
  • using sheet styrene and stretched sprue, scratchbuild landing radar thermal shield and attach to lower heatshield between landing radar and engine bell,
  • add decals from spares box,
  • attach ascent and descent stages together and check alignment of RCS engines and plume shields. Some re-alignment was required here,

  • Wrap Up
    The final step was to join the CSM and the LM. A 1/8" hole was drilled in the faired over docking ring at the forward end of the CM. The brass rod protruding through the cabin roof of the LM was inserted with liberal amounts of cyano glue. The two faired over docking hatches were then joined with cyano as well. Care must be taken to align the port side CM pilot docking window with the docking target on the cabin roof of the LM to produce the correct arrangement of the docked spacecraft. When correctly placed, the port docking window of the CM will line up with the docking target, CSM and LM thruster quads will line up and the starboard-most CM window will line up with the LM rendezvous radar dish. As a final touch, I had been saving a beautiful pewter bas-relief casting of the Apollo 11 mission patch my sister gave me that she bought from the Kennedy Space Centre gift shop. I glued in to a base I had made of acrylic sheet with a photo of the moon behind it cut from the Columbia Eagle kit box top. A couple of brass rod mountings and acrylic block resting points for the completed model and VOILA! I've estimated about 500 hours of work to build this model over the course of a year and a half.
    • Apollo_11_in_space_
    • Apollo_11a
    • Apollo_11b
    • Apollo_11c
    • Apollo_11d
    • Apollo_11e
    • Apollo_11f
    • Apollo_11g
    • Apollo_11h
    • Apollo_11i
    • Apollo_11k
    • Apollo_11j

    About the Author

    About Bob Read (NebLWeffah)

    Model builder for over 45 years (off and on - mostly on), biggest model building passion is armour and real space models, married - 3 kids.


    Thanks Scott.....this was a lot of fun, a lot of work and I really enjoyed the project. Bob Read
    FEB 03, 2007 - 04:35 AM
    That really looks outstanding.
    FEB 04, 2007 - 05:13 AM
    Hi 'Podporucznik' Thank very much for your comment, i appreciate it very much. Bob
    FEB 14, 2007 - 11:59 PM