When a friend picked up a rather magnificent Lego Saturn V kit, I kind of got bitten by the space bug, and decided to engage in a private little undeclared space race with her. The only proper opponent, of course, is nasty old Vostok, know for such dastardly acts as putting the first man in space. Kits exist from various brands, but the Airfix one has a nice selection of different payloads to sit on top of it, and is probably a no more problematic a kit than the alternatives. And avaiable, of course, so Airfix it was.
The kit isn't exactly new, 1970 according to scalemates, which means dubious fit, and raised panel lines, never a good combination. I'll refrain from further bitching about this, but be assured the combination is present in all it's glory, everywhere.
One of the first things that becomes clear when working on this kit, is that when it comes to rocket motors, the Russians believe there is strength in numbers. No less than twenty rocket nozzles make up the business end of the launch system, in five clusters of four each, one cluster on the centre stage and one each on the four boosters that together comprise the first stage. There's a further twelve smaller ones that, I would guess, were involved in directional control. In any case, that's a lot of little nozzles to deal with..
Airfix came up with a properly cunning plan to connect the rocket to the display base; right in the middle is a small pad with four protrusions that go into the nozzles of the centre stage. It's not perfect, but it does provide a far more stable situation than having the rocket rest on the directional nozzles, which protrude beyond the main ones.
I decided a plain black display base would be boring, so I airbrushed a nice big red star smack in the middle of it, with the rocket sitting at the centre of it. Seemed appropriate somehow..
Airfix have include three payloads for the rocket, the Lunar probe Luna, the Vostok capsule, and a Soyuz capsule. Due to some clever design on their part, these can be built so as to be swappable. At the time of writing, the rocket and Luna probe are complete (and have been for half a year..time flies..). Work is now going on on the Vostok and Soyuz capsules. These can be built either deployed, or encased within their payload modules. I think I can make that flexible as well, so I'll be able to display the model with one payload installed, and the other two at it's feet with the payload module opened up.
Rather predictably I stalled again, in the cause of clearing some other kits of the bench, but at last the Vostok was completed.
As it turns out, opening up the payload shells was unneccessary. When both the payloads and the shells are completely assembled, the shells fit over the payload like a kind of hat, and can be put in place and taken off at will. Made my life a bit easier.
The instructions specify white for the Vostok capsule, and Humbrol 78 for the rest of that and most of the Soyuz payload, but every image I've been able to find of the real thing or reconstructions thereof show a much darker colour, sometimes even green, and a very shiny capsule. Given such lack of clarity, I made the most of the resulting artistic licence, an used the much darker Humbrol 195 instead, along with a bright and shiny capsule. The only Hu78 visible is the 'string of pearls' around the Vostok capsule, which at a guess would be oxygen tanks.
The white parts of the Soyuz clearly hated my guts. It took four coats of paint to get an even coat of white. While this is usually to be expected, I've become spoilt by what Tamiya and Gunze flat white accomplish in one or two coats. Still, I've got tons of other whites lying around, and I don't feel like just throwing them out, so I'll just have to put up with them for a while. I find some consolation in the fact that anything that needs that many coats will run out soon enough..
The base of the Soyuz took it a bit further, and somehow managed to attract just about every particle of dust in the shed while drying. The resulting mess was such that I bailed out from using the Model Master white, and instead sanded everything smooth again, followed by a single coat of Tamiya Lacquer flat white, followed by some gloss varnish. Putting on four coats once is enough..
That undeclared space race I mentioned earlier? The opposition also stalled for a while, but recovered earlier than me and beat me by a few weeks. One day I'll run some numbers and figure out what the approximate scale of the thing is, but the Lego model is huge. About a meter's worth of rocket. Good thing I'm sticking with regular models; even the Vostok only fits the highest part of my display cases with the smallest payload installed. The 1/200 Saturn-V waiting in the wings will have to be displayed lying down, once I manage to get it built.