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by Dec Sibley

Scale: 1/25

Vostok 1 was launched atop the SL-3 A1 rocket on 12th April 1961. Piloted by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, he was to become the first man into space, achieving the Soviet Union's goal of beating the USA Mercury programme. His flight duration was 108 minutes.

Pilot is a generous term, as Yuri occupied a small sphere approx 2.3m in diameter, sat on a large ejection seat that allowed him to initiate an escape should any problems occur during take off. The main necessity for an ejection seat in the Vostok capsule was to allow the cosmonaut to avoid injury on return to earth. The Vostok spacecraft would strike the ground deep in the Soviet Union instead of the relatively soft splashdown experienced by American astronauts. The pilot would recover by parachute separate to the capsule, which also deployed parachutes to slow its decent.

While in orbit the capsule was attached to a conical instrument module by four straps and an electronic umbilical. This was detached prior to descending to Earth. As the Vostok capsule is circular the orientation as it entered the atmosphere was not important, the ablative metal skin dissipating the intense heat as the craft fell. The pilot would blow the explosive bolts on the hatch and then be propelled by rocket out of the Vostok body still in his seat.

The pilot would land some distance away from the capsule, each being recovered by helicopter.

The Model

The 1/24 Nu-bee Vostock (Sic) was the basis for this little vignette. This kit included the final booster and comms module as well as the capsule, ejector seat and pilot. It has appeared in various boxes including VEB and Revell and been labelled as both 1/24 and 1/25. For my purposes I'd build it to 1/25 scale so as to be able to refer to a 1/25-scale figure when scratching the Soviet soldier.

This old kit was crude but workable with no locating pins and vague detail but clearly representative of the real Vostok. Nearly all the parts were discarded (ready for some other build one day) as I only needed the 4 parts to the ball, the seat mount and the 3 control boxes.

Research was key and there are a lot of external views of the capsule but only a few showing the interior on the net. For the interior I added quilting and draped material that seems to cover most of the internal surfaces. This was from 2 part putty rolled thinly between sheets of sandwich wrap. Some cables from solder were added under the quilting being visible at joints. References showed an odd assortment of other boxes that were made from spares. A lever was added also. Around the inner lower hatch with the VISOR,( the Soviets' name for the main window) bolts were made from slivers of a plastic lolly stick.

The rails as modelled on the chair support were totally wrong, replacement done with evergreen channel, springs added at the base. When painted it looked a lot busier around the control panels but the chair still seemed plain so two handles and two lifting eyes were added as well. While not present on my references they helped increase the finesse of this plain area of the seat. I doubt that the additions are 100% accurate as the distortions of my reference pictures caused by the fish eye lens used to take them meant I had to judge the distances between items. Before sealing the capsule I used a pin to scrape through the paint on the switch console and the main display to reveal the white primer. This was to suggest the Crylic instructions.

I combined two different external views of the Vostok after landing. One was more burnt, thus blacker and matted than the other. Both showed the ablative metal skin removed from the top and bottom. More than one type of skin has been seen on the Vostok but as my version had the Hexagonal plates rather than the strips I had to attempt this effect. Before the skin was placed on I wanted to show the markings on the main body were the burnt off hexes had been. This was done by painting the Vostok black then making a mask from some thick square netting. When pulled tight it deformed into Hexagonal shapes. This was airbrushed in brown and revealed the geometric design. I then cut by hand each hexagon trying to match the size of the already painted surface. This was cut from self-adhesive plumbers tape, cutting about 9 hexes at a time then fitting then as one piece.

To get the onion effect on the base, which entered the atmosphere first, different circular jar lids were painted around the lip and then stamped onto the base, this was repeated with Maskol before over spraying. Other weathering was done with ground pastels, mostly mixed thickly with spirit to mimic the sooty deposits on the upper part of the capsule. Finally a ring of thin sheet plastic was cut to fit the opening and holes around the edge drilled to show the explosive bolt locations.

The soldier was the hardest element to find references on. 1950's Soviet soldiers are not very well documented and this caused 3 rebuilds. The figure started as a 1/25 Tamiya German kindly swapped to me by a member of the SM boards. Detail was ground off as well as the top of his head and a greatcoat, new webbing and fur hat made from putty, lead foil and plastic card and rod. The AK47 was done by eye and is made from 13 parts, the MP44 giving the trigger and receiver.

The base also matches the real landing zone, planted with tufts of wheat from a decorators' brush.

Image: Overall

Image: VISOR

Image: Interior

Image: Converting the soldier

Image: Completed

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