by Vincent Meens
The US Lunar Module has always been to me the ultimate spacecraft. Many models have been created of the Lunar Module and I actually built several in the past. However some of them were designed at the early stage of the Apollo project like the Revell one and needed many modifications to make them accurate and the scale was no more than 1/48 making it a medium model to display details.
In July 2006, John Ortmann exhibited a digital model of LM-5 in the space-modelers yahoo group. The realism of this model was stunning. Most of the rivets on the ascent stage mid section panels were visible and the color of the model was the most accurate representation of LM-5 I had ever seen. I realized that it was probably possible to build a real model as accurate but at a scale larger than the usual 1/48. Furthermore the availability of all photographs taken during the Apollo missions scanned at high resolution in the Apollo Archive web site was an invaluable source of information for reference of the Lunar Module.
I then decided in late 2006 to build a 1/24 Lunar Module to be able to show as many details as possible as well as as the inside cockpit. I choose to depict the historic LM-5 used for the Apollo 11 first lunar landing. With the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing approaching I was able to complete the ascent stage and show it in a manner compatible with an exhibition. This model is now displayed at the Cite de l'Espace space museum in Toulouse - France for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
The model is mainly made out of styrene, however, as for the real LM, the ascent stage is covered with individual panels of various materials: grey color painted paper to mimic the anodized aluminium panels, aluminium, black painted aluminium and real kapton used for the restorationn of LM-13. In all it is about 200 individual panels that were cut and fixed onto the styrene structure. The construction process is available on the web here.
Making the interior of the lunar module was a real challenge. It also greatly helped me to better understand the volume into which the astronauts had to live up to three days on the Moon and how difficult it was to be inside and get in and out with their spacesuit.