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Horizon Models Mercury spacecraft

RELATED TOPICS: REVIEW | REAL SPACECRAFT | SPACECRAFT
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If you grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, then you’ll remember America’s first spacemen, the Mercury 7 astronauts. They became heroes even before they became “spam in the can,” squeezed into tiny Mercury capsules placed atop somewhat unreliable Redstone and Atlas boosters.

Newcomer Horizon Models’ Mercury spacecraft provides duplicate 25-part injection-molded sprues and photo-etched frets along with a single comprehensive decal sheet. Display stands are included. From the box you can build two complete models of either the manned capsules and “boilerplate” capsule-shaped test payloads. Or you can do what I did and build two manned ships and two boilerplate craft, the latter without the heat shields.

The instructions are printed on the back of the box and have clear assembly drawings, but are incomplete when it comes to marking the different capsules. Also missing is the placement of the escape rocket pack to the truss tower; it’s nothing that even a beginner can’t figure out, but it is odd that it’s missing.

Horizon captured the corrugated texture of the capsule’s skin by molding the exterior in three sections. These are added to the heat-shield base, a central core, and a parachute housing at the top. PE appliques provide the different view ports of the various capsules. Escape-tower wiring and retro-rocket straps are also PE.

I decided to build my manned ships as Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 and John Glenn’s Friendship 7. The instructions link the differences in the capsules to the mission codes, but don’t connect the codes to the ship names, forcing you to seek additional references. The Wikipedia entry on Project Mercury helped a lot, but for quick reference, here’s the short list:

Alan Shepard’s suborbital Freedom 7 was MR-3 (MR = Mercury/Redstone) and was a twin round-porthole style capsule. Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 was MR-4 and had a single squared window view port. The remaining manned Mercury missions were launched on Atlas boosters (MA) and had the window view ports: John Glenn’s Friendship 7 (MA-6); Scott Carpenter’s Aurora 7 (MA-7); Wally Shirra’s Sigma 7 (MA-8); and Gordon Cooper’s Faith 7 (MA-9). The instructions point to the position of each capsule’s name decal, but don’t show where the “crack” in Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 is located, even though it is on the decal sheet.

The decals worked fine, but the items representing the radial stripes on the nozzles of the retro-rocket pack on the Atlas capsules are too small.

I painted the boilerplate shapes as well. Simple “United States” decals are provided for Big Joe (the first Mercury/Atlas test), and “MR-BD” (the last Mercury/Redstone booster development test).

It didn’t take long to build and paint these four capsules, just 14 hours total. Each is easily the smallest model in my collection as the capsule (without escape-rocket tower) is just 1.5" long.

Horizon’s Mercury capsules are a fine salute to the dawn of man’s exploration of space. I wonder what Horizon will do next?

Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2016 issue.

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