Hasegawa 1/48 Voyager

KIT #: SW-02
PRICE: 105 yuan RMB

In John Carpenter's 1984 sci-fi classic, "Star Man", Voyager 2 blasts through the universe to the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction". An alien finds it, listens to the Golden Record, flies to earth on a mission of peace, and gets shot down by the same government that invited him here in the first place. If it wasn't for the Star Man's gutsy new Earthling girlfriend, played by Karen Allen (best known for her role as Indy's hot and feisty ex girlfriend in Raiders of the Lost Ark), the Star Man never would have got off that miserable rock they call "Earth". 
Voyager is a really remarkable pair of spacecraft. Both 1 and 2 were launched in 1977, originally designed to fly by Jupiter and Saturn as Pioneers 10 and 11 had done, but with better instruments. But thanks to a once-in-several lifetimes planetary alignment, engineers were able to send Voyager 2 on a "planetary grand tour". By clever flying, the probe used gravity assists from each fly-by to fling itself towards the next giant planet. After zooming past Saturn in 1981, it cruised through space towards Uranus, reaching it in 1986, and sling-shotting from there onwards to Neptune. It reached Neptune in 1989 and is still flying outwards (as is Voyager 1). 
Voyager 2 is humming along at more than 15.4 kilometers per second - that's 34,500 miles per hour. Even though it flew past Neptune in 1989, nearly 25 years ago, and it's been going really very fast, it is only now reaching the real edge of the solar system, the place where the sun's solar wind dies and washes into the intergalactic wind, a bit like a river washing into the sea. This place is known as the "heliopause" and both Voyagers are navigating toward it at the moment. In mid 2012 it was more than twice as far from the Sun as Pluto but not yet beyond the outer limits of the orbit of the dwarf planet Eris. The Solar System is a very big place.
One day - and it'll be a long time coming - the two probes might drift alongside a passing star cruiser of some alien race. They're not headed in the direction of any particular star, so they'll need to be found by spacefarers.
And here's were we get back to that Golden Record.
I only have one concern about the wisdom of the Golden Record. I'm not worried about a real-life re-run of Star Man. If an alien can really make to earth, I'm sure he can handle himself without Indiana Jones' girlfriend. And no, I don't fear that aliens will discover it, then us, and come and wipe us out with ray guns or some weird galactic venereal disease we have no genetic immunity to. I have a different concern. And I can't blame Carl Sagan, who advocated for the record. I mean, they hadn't thought up CDs then, right? Much less the mp3. A record probably made sense in 1977. But the record has a different cultural meaning now. 
No, instead of death rays and the space-clap, I worry that they'll see a record on Voyager and immediately think we're a population of skinny-jeans wearing, soy latte sipping, irony-dripping D-bags who wear chunky glasses like McGeorge Bundy despite the fact they have 20-20 vision. 

Yes, I'm worried that from now until the end of time a probe with a record ("so retro, dude!") mounted on its side is out there saying: "Greetings from Planet Hipster". 

Perhaps that's why the Klingon cruiser blasted Voyager into smithereens in Star Trek VI. The gunner was all like:  "Really? Another hipster Earth probe with a record on it? I'm like so totes over this irony meme, man". Zzzz-wap! Blammo.
Well, at least by the time some alien finds it, it really will be "vintage".

This excellent kit was previewed right here on MM:  
It's made black and white plastic, handy because it is mostly black or white, and aimed at kids or those who haven't made many models before. I finally get why everyone likes Hasegawa, too. This kit is very cleverly laid out, and very cleanly moulded. The big white dish is flawless. Some of the smaller parts do require a tiny little bit of cleanup, mostly the various cylindrical bits. 
If you've wanted a Voyager but baulked at the skill needed to build the epic Real Space Models resin and PE version in 1/24 (also previewed on MM) then maybe this is for you.
This one is full of sub-assemblies. There is the main "bus", the black decagon in the middle, then there's the dish and its struts, and then there are the science instruments and the power pack (a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, otherwise known as a box full of plutonium). Each of these sub components can be assembled separately and then all put together.
The fit is amazing and this truly is a snap-tite kit - if you want it to be. Most of the joins were so strong and precise that I didn't bother gluing them. In a few spots, primarily on that complex system of booms and pylons that holds the long golden instrumentation boom, I used a couple of drops of superglue.

Once all the sub components are prepared, the instructions suggest a workflow to attach them all to the "bus". I decided to put the high gain antenna (the big white dish) on first, because I figured that putting it on last like the instructions propose would just increase the likelihood of wrecking all the booms. Doing it in reverse worked pretty well. The way the kit goes together, there is a hole in the dish. You can see it pretty clearly in the front-on photos. I decided not to fill this and sand it, on the basis that it would be quite a bit of work to get that dish looking nice afterwards, and that except in photos like these, it actually isn't that noticeable. But by all means, go ahead and do that if you prefer. It would look better if it was fixed up.
Be careful to look at the instructions carefully for the proper orientation of the smaller parts (little thrusters and various instrument packages). The painting guide diagram is useful here too, because some of the drawings in the actual instructions, while clearly drawn, are still a bit unclear on a few of these points.
The hardest part was getting the long black tube (the probe's power system, the radioisotope thermoelectric generator or RTG) to attach to its mounting. I couldn't get the locator pins all the way in, and rather than dismantling the whole thing, or risk breaking something, I got it to a point where it was attached soundly and left it like that. Some careful touchups with silver paint helped the illusion. You only notice if you stare at it from a very close distance. 
Overall, with a bit of care, this went together very smoothly.
There's a PE set available and I discuss this below.

There are no decals. I painted the big dish and a few other white parts using Tamiya "pure white" spray. Most of the rest of the craft I did with a paintbrush in Tamiya X-18 semi gloss black. The silver parts are XF-16 flat aluminium. 

I didn't go with the PE set you can get for this kit from LVM studios (link in references). Primarily this is because it costs more than the kit (and I am sure it's a fair price for the product, it's just more than I am willing to pay), but also because I have no experience with PE and this didn't seem to be the place to start. In fact, if you paint the two booms matt black, and then carefully go over the moulded boom itself with paint (I chose Tamiya gold, rather than the suggested copper, because it looks closer to the pictures to my eye), then the whole thing looks pretty good. Especially if, as I will eventually do, you display the craft against a black background. You can see in a couple of the photo-montages and also against my dark wood bench how it's actually pretty effective against a suitable background. Last of all, if you don't glue the sections of the long boom, then you can easily remove it if you need to store the kit (for example, if you move house).

Undoubtedly, the PE replacement would look better. But if you have average skills, like I do, then you should know that this kit can still give you a really satisfying result.

I finished up my Voyager by painting the base of that cool little stand the same semi-gloss black, and installing the probe onto it. The globe on the stand is supposed to be Earth, and if you look closely you'll see it has the land masses of the northern hemisphere etched onto it. But it so happens that Neptune is a nice blue colour, so I guess that makes my probe a Voyager 2 in 1989.

Voyager 2 is interesting for so many reasons, not just to do with spaceflight. The two Voyagers and the two Pioneers are the only physical evidence of humanity that will leave the solar system any time soon. They are like ambassadors from our world, in a way. This kit is excellent for anyone interested in real space, in the whole "humanity to the stars" thing, or just in something that has a great back story and looks cool on the shelf. Just watch out for the Klingons, Hipsters!


Richard F

August 2013

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