Space_Shuttle_at_ISS (2010)

Space Is The Place - page 6

This sixth page of my Space Is The Place website continues from the third , fourth and fifth pages with photos of some more of my space models and some of the history behind them. For information on the visits to space centres around the world that I have made, please return to the home page and the second page..

Space Models (continued)

The following models are displayed on this page:

  1. XB-70 & Delta Wing X-15
  2. International Space Station
  3. Buran docked to Mir
  4. Soviet Lunar Landing LOK & LK
  5. Soyuz 4 & Soyuz 5 Docking, and Soyuz 5 Reentry Diorama
  6. Salyut 1 with Soyuz 11
  7. Mars Base Camp
  8. and...
  9. Some Final Thoughts

  10. XB-70 & Delta Wing X-15 (1/72)

    XB-70 & Delta Wing X-15 (1/72)

    Admittedly, this model is a bit of a fantasy since this combination of a Delta wing X-15 being launched from the back of an XB-70 supersonic bomber never actually took place. However, as is shown in the illustration below, which was the inspiration for the model, it was seriously considered and promoted in the 1960s, especially by North American Aviation which was the firm that designed and built both aircraft. In actual fact, the proposed Delta wing X-15 was never built, and certainly it nor any other aircraft was never launched from the back of an XB-70, although using an aircraft as the first stage for launching a spacecraft is a well proven concept. These are two of my favourite aircraft, and I loved the illustration shown here and wanted to reproduce it in a little diorama.

    Anyone who has ever been to the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton Ohio cannot help but be impressed by the XB-70 - it is one of the two largest aircraft in the museum (the other being the B-36 Peacemaker). The XB-70 was designed in the mid-1950s, right at the end of the era of the strategic bombers which were intended to take the nuclear threat to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was designed to fly at over three (3) times the speed of sound 13 miles above the Earth's surface. By the time the XB-70 was actually built in the early 1960s the emphasis on delivering nuclear weapons had shifted towards strategic missiles, especially Intercontental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) which could deliver a nuclear payload more quickly and for less expense than strategic bombers, so only two XB-70s were ever actually built and only for experimental purposes. One of these two planes was destroyed following a mid-air collision (click for photo) in 1966, so in fact the XB-70 in Dayton is the only remaining example of this amazing aircraft.

    The X-15 is arguably the most successful experimental aircraft of all time. Designed and first built in the 1950s it flew 199 missions before being retired in 1966. As of 2013, the X-15 holds the official world record for the highest speed ever reached by a manned aircraft. Its maximum speed was 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h) (Mach 6.72). During the X-15 program, 13 different flights by eight pilots met the USAF spaceflight criterion by exceeding the altitude of 62 miles (100 km) thus qualifying the pilots for astronaut status. The X-15 was air launched (click for photo) from under the wing of a B-52 Bomber. The Delta Wing version of the X-15 depicted here was never built, although detailed plans were prepared for this proposed future phase of the program.

    The Delta Wing X-15 model depicted here was assembled from 3 kits. The Delta wing version of the X-15 had a lengthened fuselage in comparison to those aircraft that actually flew, so two of the 1/72 Revell/Monogram kits have been combined to lengthen the fuselage as required. The delta wings & engine (click for photo) have been lifted from the resin kit by the French company Sharkit. A mounting platform on the back of the XB-70 model was made from sheet styrene and (plenty of) filler putty. A clear acrylic rod was heated to bend into the appropriate shape to simulate the launch of the X-15 from the XB-70. The model was hung from the ceiling for dramatic effect. Note especially the photo below taken at night in the Shrine, when the ultraviolet light in the room lights up the flaming orange highlights on the (cotton batting) flames coming from the X-15 as it takes off. Cool, eh?

    By the way, one reason this configuration was never used to launch an X-15 is due to the experience of launching a drone from the back of the delta wing SR-71 Blackbird. It was found in that instance that this was in fact a quite unstable and potentially dangeous configuration for air launch, with the increased possibility of a mid-air collison. Hence, as you will note, air launched vehicles are slung under the "mother" craft almost always, and dropped at launch.

    International Space Station (1/144)

    International Space Station (1/144)

    The International Space Station (ISS) was built by a consortium of nations after the end of the Cold War, primarily Russia and the United States but as well with the European Space Agency, Canada & Japan. The bulk of the funding came from the United States, and the western powers. In part in its early conception the ISS was a way to try to keep Russian, former Soviet, military designers and manuafacturers gainfully employed in a non-threatening manner after the fall of the Soviet Union and subsequently the collapse of the Russian economy when such valuable strategic assets could have been attracted to begin to work for "rogue" states. After some initial visits of the US Space Shuttle to the Russian Space Station Mir and crew exchanges beginning in 1994, the building of the ISS commencing in 1998 was seen as the next logical step. The ISS was more or less completed a year or so before the end of the Space Shuttle flights in 2011. Crews from many nations continue today (2021) to access the ISS using Russian Soyuz rockets & spacecraft, now that the Shuttle no long flies, and supplies are brought to the station by means of Russian Progress supply. Supply ships and manned spacecraft developed in the American private sector, such as the SpaceX corporation's Dragon and Boeing's Starline spacecraft, are now or soon will be visiting the ISS regularly. The ISS is expected to continue to function for at least another decade as of 2021.

    The size of this 1/144 model of the ISS, about 30 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 14 inches high, necessitated a different approach to display than the usual approach of setting the model on a shelf or table. With space increasingly at a premium in the Shrine, I decided to hang it from the ceiling at about eye-height, placed in the room in a location where it would not be easily bumped into. This was the first of my models to receive this treatment, and it worked out so well you will note that subsequently a number of later models were hung from the ceiling as well.

    This model has been assembled from parts of 3 different kits, two of the ISS and one of the Space Shuttle. Most of the model is from the Revell (Germany) kit of the ISS, but as the solar panels in the Revell kit appeared too "beefy", the solar panels have been lifted from another 1/144 kit of the ISS manufactured by Johnson Engineering and InterMountain Railway. The Space Shuttle is the Revell USA kit.

    Buran docked to Mir (1/144)

    Buran docked to Mir (1/144)

    This model of the Soviet space shuttle Buran docked to the Mir space station is again speculative. It is based on an illustration of Buran docked to Mir (click to see) I saw in one of the facilities I toured on my trip to Russia in 1992. Buran flew only once in November 1988, making two orbits of the Earth unmanned before landing near its launch site at the Baikonour Cosmodrome. More information on the Energia-Buran can be found on page 5. If the Russian economy has not tanked so precipitiously in the early 1990s, perhaps Buran would have continued to fly and the scene depicted here would have really taken place, as it was apparently planned. In actuality, it was the American Space Shuttle that docked with Mir later in the 1990s.

    Mir was the Soviet Union's (and later Russia's) 3rd generation space station, which was inhabited near constantly from its launch in 1986 until its de-orbit in 2001. It was modular in design, with its modules launched separately using Proton rockets (click to see me standing next to a real Proton rocket) and then attached at one of its docking ports, most of which were on the Mir "core" module. Crews were launched to it in Soyuz spacecraft and later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the American Space Shuttle. Supplies arrived either on Progress ferries launched by the Soviets / Russians, or later the Space Shuttle.

    This model was a combination of several kits. Mir is based largely on the snap-together Revell (Germany) kit, although the New Ware Mir upgrade kit's solar panels and other photoetched brass details improved the model considerably. The module on the end of the effector arm came from the Realspace Mir kit. The Buran was modified from the Anigrand resin kit. The cargo bay doors were split and opened up, and detailing was added in the cargo bay.

    This model was hung from the ceiling for display, in fact right over the entrance to the Shrine so that the vistor walks into the room under it. Again this was done partly for lack of shelf space, but it also afforded an opportunity for a much more dramatic display of the model. A cosmonaut spacewalking with the so called "space motorcycle" (click to see illustration) can be seen suspended nearby in one of the photos below. Note the night shot below, which gives some sense (as poor as the photo is) of what the display looks like with all the Shrine's lighting on.

    Soviet Lunar Landing LOK & LK (1/30)

    Soviet Lunar Landing LOK & LK (1/30)

    I am particularly proud of this model. A 60th birthday present to myself. In the winter of 2012-13 this was my big project. This scene never took place, although it was planned for many years, with unknown thousands of people involved that consumed millions of rubles, but was virtual unknown, or perhaps better stated as "only rumoured", until after the fall of the Soviet Union. Hugely important in Cold War space history, but virtually unseen until less than 25 years ago: this depicts a victorious moment in the planned "N-1 L-3" mission: the Soviet Lunar landing mission. For more information on the failed N-1 booster, please see page five. Here two cosmonauts pass a box containing Moon rocks after one cosmomaut has just returned from the surface of the Moon in the upper stage of the Soviet lunar landing module, the "LK" ("Lunniy korabl" or Lunar Craft) and docked with the "LOK" ("Lunniy Orbitalny Korabl" or Lunar Orbital Craft) in which one cosmonaut has remained in orbit. Click here to see an excellent series of drawings on the N-1 L-3 mission that outline where this scene would fit in.

    The Soviet planned Lunar landing mission had a crew of two, only one of whom would decend to the surface of the Moon leaving the other in orbit. By contrast, the American 3-man Apollo crews sent two men to the surface and left one in Lunar orbit. Unlike the comparable American lunar spacecraft, the Apollo Lunar Module and Command & Service Module, the docked LOK & LK had no internal tunnel through which the cosmonauts could crawl between the two pressurized spacecraft freely. This necessitated the LK Moon landing cosmonaut making a spacewalk when both leaving for and returning from the Lunar surface. Quite the day for that chap, after soloing down to the surface, and then launching back up into Lunar orbit again within the past 24 hours as well!

    This was probably the most ambitious modeling project I had taken on to taht point, and it was therefore "thrilling" (such as modeling can be :-). For this one model I thought it would be interesting to take you, the reader, through the process of creating a model almost from scratch, from just an idea through to reality. This model was largely improvised, "scratchbuilt" - scaled from diagrams and pictures of the spacecraft and the cosmonauts. A lot of research goes into a project like this. An historical model yes but, because of the secrecy of the old Soviet Union, one for which there are few diagrams and photos available. As a total spaceflight history freak, this is research I thoroughly enjoy. Here are a few illustrations of the two spacecraft involved, the LOK and the LK.

    Although much of the model is scratchbuilt, two modules of the LOK, the orbital & descent modules, are adapted from the fabulous Soviet era 1/30 Ogonjek Soyuz kit, which is in my view the best kit of the Soyuz (of the earliest manned version) ever produced, and certainly the largest. I was lucky in the 1980s, before the wall fell, to trade a couple of fellows in Poland and Czechoslovakia Barbie dolls and other items then hard to get behind the Iron Curtain for a number of these kits. Many modifcations were required to represent correctly this Lunar orbiting version of the Soyuz. A major cone assembly had to be added (built from scratch) to the front of the orbital module. Lots sanded off the rest of both modules. The equipment/service/propulsion module is largely scratched, with just a part of the flare at the bottom and the antennae ring at the top coming from the Ogonjek Soyuz. Most of the service module is based on the second stage of a 1/200 Saturn V I'd junked years ago. That was the start, and then several wrappings with sheet styrene followed. Lots of putty and sanding, all round. These elements can be seen in this early rough placement of the LOK components. (click to see)

    I had an extra Soyuz Orbital Module, left over from the conversion of another of these Ogonjek Soyuz kits to the L-1 "Zond" circumlunar version of the Soyuz described on page 5, and initially thought this would form the basis of the LK Ascent Module. However, when I did some measurements on diagrams I discovered that the Orbital Module was far too big - about 20 mm too big in diameter. The LK was real small! I figured out the size scaling from the diagram labeled "Rosetta Stone", as it has both the LOK and the LK in the same diagram. The closest size sphere I could find was a make-your-own Christmas ornament (clear) (click to see) I got from a crafts store. Then took two tapers off the top of the 2nd stage of two scrapped 1/144 Saturn Vs (click to see) for the base below the sphere, with a taper to the S-IVB truncated to connect these two pieces. A piece of a pill vial (click to see) was used on the top of the LK to connect to the docking system. So, at this point all the modules' basic shapes (click to see) had been defined.

    This model required me to employ almost all the modeling techniques I had acquired over the years. For example, I could not find enough hemispheres of the correct dimension to model the tanks on the nose of the LOK. I did have one sphere of the right size, however, so I made silicone moulds (click to see) from it and cast a series of the required hemispheres in resin. The thin sheet styrene on the cone-shaped nose of the LOK was far too flimsy for the forces it was going to have to support on the completed model, so resin was poured into the cone which when hardened and cured provided the required reinforcement. Other smaller Christmas balls were used for the tanks around the rear perimeter of the LOK service module, and other modeling spare parts (cones, hemispheres, etc.) (click to see) contributed to the detailing. Now, when all the modules (click to see) were placed together you began to get a real sense of what the final model would look like.

    The two cosmonaut figures are the focus of interest in this diorama, and so getting them right was important. They are based on 1/35 soldier figures.(click to see) Arms, legs and torsos were selected for appropriate positioning for the passing of the Moon rock samples from one to the other. Milliput and a lot of filler putty and sanding required to make them look credible. The helmet visors (click to see) were vacuuformed. Note that the two spacesuits are different. The returned Moon walker is wearing a Kretchet 94 suit (click to see), which has a notably larger backpack, while the LOK fellow is wearing an Orlan suit (click to see). Both have hard upper torsos (very different than the soft US Apollo suits), and access is through the back, with the backpack swinging open like a door. A version of the Orlan is still used by the Russians today. There was no information available on what the Moon rock samples would have been contained in when transferred from the LK to the LOK, so I used a toolbox (click to see) from a 1/35 tank crew accessory set. A piece of glow-in-the-dark plastic string (click to see), so as to be visible in the darkened but UV drenched Shrine, facilitated the transport of the box of Moon rocks between the two figures.

    After the detailing and painting was finished, the completed model was hung at about eye-level in the Shrine (see photos below). I was pleased with the result.

    Soyuz 4 & Soyuz 5 Docking, and Soyuz 5 Reentry Diorama (1/30)

    Soyuz 4 & Soyuz 5 (1/30)

    The docking of the Soviet Union's Soyuz 4 with Soyuz 5 in January of 1969 was the first ever joining in space of two manned spacecraft (note: the American Gemini 8, 10, 11 & 12 manned spacecraft had docked with unmanned Agena rocket stages in 1966). Two cosmonauts, Yevgeny Khrunov and Alexei Yeliseyev, who had flown into orbit with Boris Volynov in Soyuz 5, peformed an EVA (or "spacewalk") to transfer to Soyuz-4 to join Vladimir Shatalov who had been launched solo earlier. The two spacewalkers returned to Earth with Shatalov in Soyuz 4 and thus became the first men to return from space in a different spacecraft than that in which they had been launched. Surprizingly, an EVA was required to transfer between the two spacecraft because the early Soyuz, unlike its contemporary the Apollo Command Module, did not have an internal transfer tunnel. In fact this mission was intended to serve as training for the EVA transfer between spacecraft that would also be required for the then planned Soviet lunar landing mission, since the docked LOK-LK combination had no internal tranfer tunnel either (see above description of the LOK-LK model for more details).

    The basis of this model is two kits of the fabulous Soviet era 1/30 Ogonjek Soyuz , which in many ways has become my favourite space model kit of all time because it is a large scale, a somewhat unusual subject, and certainly well detailed. Perhaps most significantly, as the real Soyuz has formed the basis of so many Soviet/Russian spacecraft, the Ogonjek kit can be modified to model many other spacecraft. Other than a lot of additional detailing, the only adaptation to the spacecraft was the inclusion of an extension ring on the front of the Orbital Module (i.e., the "nose") of Soyuz 5, which was the "female" drogue receptacle for the probe on the front of Soyuz 4.

    The real challenge on this model was making the two spacewalking figures. These are based on 1/32 German WWII figures with a lot of milliput, modeling putty and sanding required to get their shapes correct, as the following series of photos will attest.(pic 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 4,) The tiny faceplates for their helmets were vacuuformed using my crude equipment. Note the life support "backpacks" for the spacewalkers were actually attached to the front of their legs! When the model was completed it was hung in the Shrine with some commenorative material on the mission (signed postcards of the crew, a stamp and patches) nearby.

    A desire to memorialize the survivor of the closest anyone in the history of manned spaceflight has come to death, but yet survived, was the inspiration for my Soyuz 5 reentry diorama. Beginning with fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s a number of stories about the problems in the early Soviet space program became public for the first time. One such story is the reentry of Soyuz 5, following the successful spacewalk transfer of two cosmonauts from Soyuz 5 to Soyuz 4. The lone remaining cosmonaut in Soyuz 5, the Commander Boris Volynov, had to return to Earth solo. Volynov was one of the 20 first cosmonauts selected in 1960, and became the first Jew in space. After firing the retrorockets and beginning the descent through the atmosphere, Soyuz 5's Service Module failed to properly separate from the Descent Module. This caused the spacecraft to flip around from the correct orientation and enter upside down. With the ablative protective heatshield hidden, Soyuz's top hatch was entering first. The hatch began to bulge inward from the pressure and the rubber seal around it began to smoke. Volynov thought he was going to die. Luckily just before catastrophe struck, the two modules separated, and the spacecraft righted itself. Volynov landed far off course, and smashed several teeth on a hard landing when the landing retrorockets failed, but he lived! The story of Soyuz 5's reentry is told in this brief video (link to YouTube video) This model is also based on the 1/30 Ogonjek Soyuz kit. Cotton batting highlighted with flourescent paint in ultraviolet light simulates the flames.

    Salyut 1 with Soyuz 11 (1/30)

    Salyut 1 with Soyuz 1 (1/30)

    Salyut 1 was the world's first spacestation, launched by the Soviet Union on April 19th, 1971. The only crew to occupy Salyut 1 were the three cosmonauts of Soyuz 11: Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev. Tragically, after a very successful 22 days on board the station, these three cosmonauts died in a depressurization accident during their return to Earth.

    There is only one commercially available model kit (a resin "garage" kit) of Salyut 1 which is in 1/144 scale. This tiny scale does not seem to do justice to the importance of this vehicle and mission, so I decided I would scratchbuild a Salyut 1 in the same scale as the fabulous Soviet era 1/30 Ogonjek Soyuz kit which I like so much. Thus my Salyut 1 model is almost five (5) times the size of this one commercially available Salyut 1 model kit. This rare Ogonjek Soyuz kit has already served as the basis for several of my models, including the L-1 (Zond) / Block D shown on page 5, as well as the Soviet Lunar Landing LOK-LK model and the Soyuz 4 & Soyuz 5 model all of which are shown above on this page. My stock of these kits (originally, in the 1980s, I had 8 of them I believe, acquired from contacts in Poland & Czechoslovakia by trading for Barbie dolls before the Wall came down) has gradually dwindled as I have found so many uses for them over the years. As these kits now sell for upwards of $150 or more on e-Bay, I was lucky to find on e-Bay for $40 a completed but damaged Ogonjek Soyuz model a fellow in Hungary had scrapped. This was good enough for my purposes, since I intended to do some significant refurbishment to the model anyway.

    Again, the start of the project involved accumulating a lot of reference material and working from diagrams of Salyut 1 to determine the basic sizes and shapes of the components needed. Salyut 1 is essentially made up of a series of concentric cylinders of differing diameters, connected by tapered sections. There were no old model parts I had on hand that were as large in diameter as the two largest cylinders required. Luckily for years I have hoarded junk that looked promising for modelling purposes, so I dug through my junk boxes looking for objects that had the required diameters and came up with the following for the basis of each section of Salyut 1 (working from the back to the front, where the Soyuz is docked):

    1. Propulsion Module - sheet styrene rolled over fishing line spools
    2. Large Diameter Work Section - sheet stryrene rolled over bulk CD spools
    3. Small Diameter Work Section - sheet stryrene rolled over nylon pantyhose packaging
    4. Airlock / Transfer Compartment - a section of the second stage of a scrapped 1/200 scale Saturn V
    5. A bigger challenge than the cylinders were the tapered sections between the Large and Small Diameter Work Sections, between the Small Diameter Work Section and the Airlock / Transfer Compartment, and between that compartment and the Soyuz. It is highly unlikely that one would find a taper of the correct length with the required diameter at either end, even in my extensive junk collection, so these had to be made from scratch. To do this the component cylinders for the model, aligned along a wooden dowel, were placed at the correct distance from each other and triangular pieces of styrene were placed between the two cylinders to be joined by the tapered section. Fitting in pieces of styrene to fill in the gaps, followed by a lot of model putty filler, alternating with sanding was required to get the correct shapes roughly, eventually. To be honest, there was about two months of sanding alternating with putty filling to get this basic shape right. Luckily this was in the summer, so I did most of the sanding on my back deck, otherwise my house would have gotten pretty dusty!

      Once the basic shape was about right, work began on the larger details. The first of these was the big telescope mounted in the Large Diameter Work Section. This was an unusual sort of bowl shape. I looked all over a local craft store for something that could serve as a vacuuform mould for this shape, and found a small glass tea candle holder. A hole was cut in the side of the Large Work Section to inset the vacuuformed part. In the interest of full disclosure, it appears that this telescope may have been under a protective, white cover during the entire time the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts occupied the Salyut 1 station - it may have been intended for use by later crews that, in the end, never flew to the station, following the death of the Soyuz 11 crew on their return to Earth and the extended review and rennovation of the Soyuz ferry that followed. However, the telescope adds greatly to the interest of the model, so I represented it nonetheless.

      A number of the other larger details were borrowed from spare parts I had left over from earlier projects that used the 1/30 Ogonjek Soyuz kit. For example, neither the L-1 (Zond) / Block D shown on page 5 nor the Soviet Lunar Landing LOK-LK model used the solar panels, so these were available to use on the Salyut 1 model. Similarly, the main propulsion system on the real Salyut 1 was borrowed from Soyuz, and again on this model a propulsion unit from the Soyuz Propulsion Module unused for the Soviet Lunar Landing LOK-LK model was available to be used on this Salyut model. This is just like the real Salyut 1, which was created by supplementing the (then unflown) Almaz military space station with parts and technology originating with the Soyuz spacecraft. Other smaller detailing on the Salyut model came from my spare parts collection, as well as using push-pins, play jewellery pearls and wooden spheres for the many tanks on the model.

      As noted earlier, the Soyuz model was one I purchased on e-bay from a fellow in Hungary who had scrapped it. It was not in great shape, so most of the work required on it was just to bring it up to standard, such as finding a way to re-attach the broken-off solar panels. This was achieved using very strong yet fine carbon-carbon rods, which are stronger and less flexible than steel of comparable guage. About the only significant change on the Soyuz were modifications to the back of the Propulsion Module, necessitated because Soyuz 11 did not have the toroidal shaped (i.e., donut shaped) avionics module that was present on the earlier Soyuz, as represented in the Ogonjek kit.

      One of the final details was the lettering on the side of the Large Diameter Work Section of Salyut 1. There were no suitable ready-made options available for this lettering, so it became evident I would have to make my own decals on the computer. As the lettering was white, the tricky part was getting the green background on the decals to match the shade of green on the model. This took some trial and error, but the result turned out pretty good. Interestingly, the name painted on the side of the spacecraft was not "Salyut", but rather "Zarya", which had been the name for the "DOS"-class of space stations while in development. The use instead of the name "Salyut" was decided upon only about 5 days before launch of the station, and there was not time to re-paint the new name on the side. "CCCP" below the "Zarya" on the model is the Cyrillic abbreviation for "USSR", of course.

      Once the model was finished (see pic 1, pic 2, pic 3 and pic 4,) it was hung in the Shrine. As the more interesting side of the model would actually face out into space (e.g, with the active blue coloured side of the solar panels and the telescope), the model was actually hung upside down in the Shrine so that these would be visible looking up from below. A blow-up of a commemorative stamp issued in the USSR was hung nearby. All in all, this was an ambitious project which took me about 6 months to complete and, although not perfect, I am pleased with the result.

        Illustration of Soyuz 11 docking with Salyut 1 Illustration of Soyuz 11 docking with Salyut 1 (click to enlarge)
        Salyut 1 with Soyuz 11 hung in the Shrine Salyut 1 with Soyuz 11 hung in the Shrine (click to enlarge)

      Mars Base Camp: Orbital Station & Landing Diorama (1/144)

      MADV Landing Diorama (1/144)

      When I first saw an artist's rendering of Lockheed-Martin's Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle (MADV) on the cover of Spaceflight (click to see) the British Interplantary Society's monthly publication, I was immediately smitten and just loved the look of the spacecraft asthetically. Aerodynamic and shaped somewhat like the Space Shuttle in the nose, I made a mental note that I would like to try to scratchbuild a MADV someday. And further, the article in that issue outlined the complete Mars Base Camp concept, which is centred on an orbital station circling around Mars with occasional sorties to the Martian surface in a MADV. From the standpoint of physics and energy efficiency, keeping most of the "base camp" in orbit rather than putting it on the surface makes a lot of sense, much as lunar orbital rendezvous had made sense in the Apollo era and the Lunar Gateway concept more recently. I knew that scratchbuilding the complex shape of the MADV would not be easy, so I was thrilled when Fantastic Plastic issued a 1/144 scale kit (click to see MADV kit box art) of the Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle. After I had begun to work on a Martian surface landing diorama to display my first MADV kit in summer 2020, it occured to me that it would be nice to model the orbital station as well, so as to display the entire Mars Base Camp concept. On the net I found many illustrations of the Mars Base Camp (click to see one example), and eventually came to imagine that my model would have two Orion spacecraft configured for deep space docked to the station radially with one MADV docked to the station axially, and a second MADV about to dock to the station at the opposite axial port. (click to see similar illustration). I picked out a spot in the Shrine where I thought this could be hung from the ceiling (hoping it would fit!), ordered two more MADV kits, and set out scratchbuilding for the next several months.

      The first thing required for a scratchbuilding project is one or more good scale diagrams of the subject. I contacted media relations at Lockheed-Martin to ask if they had any scale diagrams, but did not get a reply. So I went through all the artists renderings I could find and found one where the perspective was almost perfectly at right angles to the longitudinal axis of the station. To get the scaling to the desired 1/144 scale, the key (the "Rosetta Stone" I call such things) was the inclusion of the Orion Crew Module in the artist's rendering. As I know the dimensions of the Orion, the rest of the station could be scaled from that. As well, I enlarged that diagram to 1/144 scale (click to see scale diagram), printed, pasted, and cut it out so I had a ready scale reference and could test fit (crudely) where it would eventually be placed.

      I keep a collection of "junk" for scratchbuilding projects, consisting of scrapped models, leftover model parts and other things that have a potentially useful shape. Generally, most spacecraft are composed of spheres, cylinders and tapers, and these shapes can be replicated quite readily. For example, the many hydrogen & oxygen tanks (click to see) on the model were simulated using wooden dowel ends for the spherical tanks, and hemispherical hotel shampoo bottle caps on the ends with a section of tubing in the middle for the cylindrical tanks, with lots of filler putty and sanding. For some of the detailing (e.g., heat radiators, airlock module (click to see) and the solar electric propulsion unit (click to see)) I drew upon parts left over from my International Space Station (click to go to ISS section)) model, which had combined parts from two kits (Revell & InterMountain Railway) and so there were many "leftovers".

      To model the Orion Crew Module I employed a technique I hadn't used for years of making a mould from model parts and then casting replicas (click to see). I made a mould of the Orion from the Space Launch System (SLS) kit from Martin's Models in the UK which I had not yet built and cast replicas. This took a bit of experimentation with both the mould making compound (finally settling on a high strength room temperature vulcanizing silcone rubber) and the casting resin (using clear polyester resin in the end) to get a satisfactory result. The "Deep Space Orions" have a cryogenic stage (click to see) attached, rather than the service module used for near Earth missions, which I largely modelled after the classic Centaur rocket stage.

      There was another bit of serendipity in modeling the solar arrays. I had another unbuilt model kit of an early version of the Orion from Fantastic Plastic (click to see box art) in 1/72 scale. The solar arrays on the early Orion are of the same design (i.e., "round") as those on the Mars Base Camp orbital station, just a different size (the solar arrays on the Orion have since been changed to a cruciform design). The Fantastic Plastic Orion kit used decals on sheet styrene for the solar arrays, so I scanned these decals into my graphics program, resized them, printed on decal paper, and voila!: decent looking solar arrays (click to see).

      Once all the major components of the orbital station (click to see) were complete, they were assembled along a heavy 1/8 inch steel rod "spine" to ensure proper alignment, as this series of photos illustrates.(pic 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 4,) With the orbital station complete (click to see), it was time to hang it from the ceiling in the Shrine, along with the third and final MADV (click to see). It is never easy to hang models from the ceiling, and this one was the most difficult ever. I build a "scaffolding" to place the model in the desired position, which is inevitably very high & pretty wobbly, before attaching the model to the ceiling. Putting the delicate model on top of this wobbly stack always scares the hell out of me. Eyelets are inserted in the correct positions in the ceiling. Working with near invisible fishing line is also a challenge. I had a minor disaster on the first hanging attempt when the eyelets ripped right out of the ceiling and the station suddenly crashed to the floor. Lots of damage to the model, but fortunately repairable. After a day of repairs I tried the hanging a second time using heavier duty eyelets with more success. While far from perfect, I am very pleased with this unique model that graphically illustrates how mankind could begin to inhabit Mars.

        Mars Base Camp Orbital Station model detail Mars Base Camp Orbital Station model detail (click to enlarge)
        Mars Mars Base Camp Orbital Station model at night (click to enlarge)
        Mars Base Camp Orbital Station model Mars Base Camp Orbital Station model (click to enlarge)
        Mars Base Camp Orbital Station model Mars Base Camp Orbital Station model (click to enlarge)
        Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle diorama with NASA E.V./Chariot rover (Matchbox Toy) Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle diorama with NASA E.V./Chariot rover (Matchbox Toy) (click to enlarge)

      Some Final Thoughts: I Want to be Buried on Mars


      I have been a spaceflight nut virtually all my life. My earliest recollection of this is when my Mother mentioned to me that this Russian fellow, Yuri Gagarin, had flown around the Earth in an hour and a half, exactly a week before my 8th birthday. By that young age I knew that the Earth was pretty big, and that an hour and a half was about the length of one of my school classes, so the thought of this guy covering that distance in that time totally blew my young mind. The thought still does 60 years later.

      At my age, when you are closer to the end of your life than the beginning, you begin to think about your "legacy". What do you want to leave behind? I have no children, so unlike many I leave no direct legacy of that nature. However, I do have an idea that I think and hope will be my legacy: I WANT TO BE BURIED ON MARS. I came around to this thought somewhat indirectly.

      Some years I ago I thought when I get to retirement I would love to sign-on for one of the one-way trips to Mars being talked about. What the heck! No offspring to support me in my old age on this planet anyway! I am still in great physical shape and could do valuable work on Mars until I am ready to die there, and would be fine not to return to Earth ever.

      But to be more realistic, they are not likely to even get that one-way trip to Mars arrangment together before it is too late for me. Thus, I have defined (well in advance, I hope) my dying wish: I WANT TO BE BURIED ON MARS!!! This is not just an idle thought; it is a challenge to my successors (family and more broadly). I have conceded that it would be fine with me if this bulky water was left behind on this planet, but the rest of me...MARS! I am just imagining, say in 50, 70, or 100 years, some distant relative of mine several generations on, with my ashes in an urn on the mantle, finally (technology and family finances of the future willing) all excited because FINALLY they are able to fulfill (weird old) Grand Uncle Ken's last wish, and send his few worldly remains to the Red Planet!

      People think I am kidding about this, but I am not. I have been posing this question to people: "What sort of a civilization, if it has the technology to live on two planets, would continue to live on just one?" It does not make sense when you think about it in those terms. All it takes is one celestial object of the magnitude the dinosaurs encountered and civilization as we know it would be wiped out. The global pandemic of 2020 has also demonstrated how the Earth's biosphere can suddenly bite us. We as a species need to diversify our habitat beyond just this one planet. Indeed, this is our collective destiny. We human beings are the "crown of creation" (at least all of which we are currently aware): the Universe's way of being conscious of itself. As such we are the emissaries of life itself. It is as inevitable as the first creatures crawling from the sea onto land that eventually we, as the emissaries of life, will establish a beachhead beyond Earth. My little "dying wish" is simply a challenge to my family and our species more broadly to "get off your butts and get on with it".


      Ken R. Harman

      Click here to return to the models of historic spacecraft and launch vehicles on the third, fourth and fifth pages. To return to the descriptions of my trips to space centres around the world, click here for the home page or the second page.

      This page will change and evolve over time, so check back periodically. I welcome any questions or comments and can be contacted at:

      Ken R. Harman
      last revision date: January 2021