Manufacturer: RealSpace Models, 813 Watt Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32303
Comments: Mixed media, 57 parts (29 resin, 28 photoetched).
I've waited a long time for somebody to issue American space capsules in my favorite scale. RealSpace Models has done just that with this set of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft.
The set's main components are cast in cream-colored resin with good representations of the corrugated surfaces of the Mercury and Gemini capsules. Fine details are photoetched brass. My kit had no decals, but RealSpace expects to include sets soon. (The company provided dry transfers for this review.)
The Mercury capsule comes in three parts: cabin, heat shield, and nose cone. Its escape-rocket tower has resin engine and exhaust cones with photoetched tower and heat-shield straps. The resin parts went together in the blink of an eye, but bending the heavy brass tower was troublesome. No fold lines were etched into the parts, and bending three 120-degree angles was difficult. If I were to do it again, I would cut the etching into three parts and either super glue or solder them together. Keep the finished escape tower separate to paint.
The Gemini capsule also is simple, with two main parts for the cabin and service modules. The prominent ribbing on the service module is missing. A single photoetched horizon indicator needs to be folded, but it is difficult to tell from the diagram on the instructions how it should be mounted to the capsule. Gold-colored foil is provided for the back of the service module. I glued it on with Sobo white glue. Keep the capsule and service module separate for painting, then join them with super glue.
RealSpace's Apollo command and service module unit is the most complex of the trio. It is molded in one large, heavy, resin casting that shows bubbles on the surface. I filled them with gap-filling super glue. The rear of the service module and the engine exhaust bell are separate castings, and the service module's thruster exhausts are molded onto sticks of resin. They are tiny and difficult to trim and sand.
My biggest hurdle with the Apollo was forming the photoetched docking probe and high-gain antenna. A brass wire (provided) has to fit through the center of the three-part docking rig, but the holes in the centers for this wire were not etched in. Each part has three arms that must be bent and attached to the other parts.
Even trickier was forming gentle curves into the four center segments of the high-gain antenna. I used the blunt end of a paintbrush to push the center of each spidery segment into my workroom carpet. This produced the requisite curves, which then had to be soldered to circumferential rings. Pick-up horns must be folded and installed in the center of each antenna, then each antenna is mounted to a photoetched mast.
Several tiny photoetched handles are provided, but they are difficult to bend and the instructions are unclear as to their attitude around the command module hatch. I left off all but one.
Painting was easy: black for the Mercury and Gemini capsules, white for the Gemini service module, red for the Mercury escape-rocket tower, and aluminum and white for the Apollo service module. I used Bare-Metal Foil on the Apollo command module, with details of red and black.
No marking instructions are provided, so I referred to Time/Life's Life in Space for the position of the United States and flags for each craft. The rub-ons went on without problems.
I spent 30 hours on the set, many of them struggling with the photoetched parts. This kit is not a beginner's project, and you should sharpen your folding and soldering skills before launching into these models. Now, how about the boosters? Imagine a five-foot Saturn V!