Airfix 1/72 Lunar Module








Dr. Frank Spahr 




Yet another flashback to 1969 when I devoured anything connected with space, namely the real Apollo program and what SF shows I could see on TV (plus any available Godzilla movie ;-). I recently  discovered that the Airfix kit of the Lunar module could be had for a reasonable price at my favorite mailorder shop, so I laid my hands on it. I had fond memories of  this kit from my youth, especially the „moon surface“ base and the little astronauts. Given the astronomical prices collectors pay for other Airfix kits, it looked like a bargain. BTW: I´ve never heard of a swap meet around here, so I have to make do with prices at ebay or available shops – sigh. 

As most of you probably know,  the Lunar Module was developed by the Grumman Corporation for the Apollo space program; it was transported inside the Saturn V rocket into orbit, coupled to the Command module and traveled with it to a moon orbit. Two of the three astronauts manned the LM and descended with it to the moon, whilst the pilot of the command module kept watch in orbit. The Lunar module, not designed for atmospheric flights, needed no aerodynamic shape and looked somehow spidery with its four outriggers/landing legs. It comprised of two parts, a lower descent stage and an upper ascent stage that carried the crew back to the mother ship using the descent stage as a launching platform. Six of these descent stages are still standing on the moon. Some of the ascent stages were deliberately crashed on the moon surface to generate seismic shock waves for geological measurings, the rest crashed after some months in moon orbit.

 There were basically two versions of the LM although there must have been slight differences between all the crafts. The earlier version (as depicted in the kit) and the later J-version capable for an extended stay on the moon and able to carry the LRV = Moon mobile or Lunar Rover in the descent stage. In all, twelve LM´s were built, and two have survived due to changes in the program. One of the links underneath shows you a list.

The various moon missions conducted a variety of scientific experiments. Apollo 11 as the first had the most limited scope in this respect. The set of instruments deployed was called the EASEP = Early Apollo Surface Experiments Package. It consisted of two solar panels, an antenna and communications system, a passive seismometer,  and a lunar dust detector. The EASEP consisted of a square base on which was mounted the seismometer and dust detector, along with an isotope heater and cylindrical antenna mast with an antenna positioning mechanism. Two brackets protruded from opposite sides of the base and held the canted rectangular solar panels, positioned to face towards the east and west. The laser ranging retroreflector (LRRR) was also considered part of the EASEP although it was not attached to the unit and required no power. 

When I received the kit, I revisited it.


First of all, Airfix rates this kit a 2 out of 4 for difficulty; you get 93 parts, 2 of them are transparent for the triangular windows, the rest of a soft white plastic. Speaking of flash, ejector pin marks and sink marks, yes, they´re all there, too. What did you expect anyway? It´s vintage Airfix stuff. The base looks and feels rather flimsy and doesn´t fit all too well, but I´m confident the rest will go together well. I test-fitted the main parts of the ascent and descent stages and they at least fit nicely. Beside the acutal craft, you get two astronauts, one of them holding an american flag, the abovementioned base and parts for the EASEP.

 The basic issue with this kit sems to be accuracy. I have a feeling that the box art seems to have been painted and the kit designed before the moon landing. For instance, it completely leaves out the extensive foil wrappings of the craft. They stick out in any picture of the actual event and should be duplicated somehow in the model.  Also indicative is that the small decal sheet contains two inscriptions for the base plate: One for LM-5 „Eagle“ of the Apollo 11 mission, the other simply stating Apollo Lunar Module – Second moon landing leaving out the name of the craft and date. Apollo 12 with LM-6 „Intrepid“ already took place in November 1969, so I assume that the kit was produced at a comparatively  early stage of the moon program.

 I didn´t have to search the web for any period of time to discover two articles on accurizing both this and the 1:48 Revell kit. These guys have gone great lengths in research, modifying and scratchbuilding to produce real showstoppers.

 Now this is no starship, no model of a model that was revised frequently during shooting a TV show as the USS Enterprise, this is a kit of a real thing, and even for me it´s clear that I won´t get away with at least some modifications to capture the essence of the real thing. That´s what´s currently my benchmark. It doesn´t have be a duck genetically, and I´m easy with quacking, but it should look like a duck.



 What did I so far conclude? Well, I´m sure you have to do something about the foil wrappings, and have already learned that there are different brands of jawbreaking candy whose wrappings may come in handy; apart from that you might try the real stuff gold-coated mylar foil used for preserving body heat of crash victims and required for each German car first-aid kit, but a thin metal foil will surely be much more willing to keep its shape.

What also struck me was the surface of the ascent stage. It was internally constructed of a framework of welded tubes and then covered with sheets of aluminum. They have a distinct uneven look in the pics, and this should be somehow duplicated. I currently do not feel inclined to change the shape of the ascent stage as shown in the article, but I´m not through with this yet. We´ll see.

 All in all, this looks like an exciting project to me. With the plethora of references on the net, you might build a really cool LM from it. I guess I won´t use the base but build my own, and I´m already wondering how to make it.


 I found these sites helpful for evaluating what should be done:

 Happy modeling, Frank

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