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Celestial Sphere Britannia

[Proudly Sponsored by BLAP! Models]

Sponsored by BLAP! Models

by Ian Crichton

Scale: Not stated

July 1869: the gallant crew of the Celestial Sphere 'Britannia' prepare to leave Earth with the blessing of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, to explore and claim dominion over the nearest astronomical body: the MOON.

Just over a century later, and the lost British moon mission has slipped from national disaster to legend to forgotten, all that's left are a few scattered references in obscure journals, and a shipwright's model...

Inspired by Verne and Wells, and based at least partly on the Aries lander from 2001, this is a lunar lander in the Steampunk style. Constructed around a 160mm spherical solar powered garden lamp, with sheet styrene buttresses and springloaded brass landing gear, this model also features internal lighting (the top lifts off so that the solar cell can recharge, and the top cabin has a separate LED light culled from a tiny keying torch), engines are from a truly bizarre acrylic table vase- it had seven 'bulb' shaped vases nested together; I saw it in a charity shop and thought WOW! I'm going to have to find a use for THAT! I've since found three more...

The pressure doors, portholes and boiler doors were mastered in styrene, moulded in silicone rubber, and many, many casts were produced, railings from Plastruct, rivets are cut from hexagonal stryene rod, with the odd bit of model railway accessory kitbashed for other fixtures and fittings.

The base is made from 10mm acrylic sheet, with 0.5mm styrene sheet flagstones cut out and 'distressed' with a miniature blowtorch. The gantry is styrene Plastruct and ABS, with aluminium mesh for the, er, mesh. The engine is a Dapol (Formerly Airfix, before that Kitmaster) Pug shunter, with a Plastruct gantry and a scratchbuilt crane, the rails are a length of Hornby flexible track, curved beyond the recommended radius to fit the base.

(more pictures of the construction can be found here, including the bizarre vase-thing)

The Sphere is finished in airbrushed metallic Citadel acrylics over a heavy matt black Krylon basecoat (to block any light leaks, mind you, I did spend an evening in semi darkness chasing away chinks of light with a tin of matt black and a no. 3 brush), engines are finished in Alclad chrome, with a tinted brass laquer, fading into a heat damaged blue, and finally matt black soot; the base was spattered with various shades of grey from a number of rattle cans, followed by a dark wash and a lighter drybrushing, with added dirty puddles in tinted Future. The pad, shunter and crane gantry were base coated in red oxide, then dirtied down with the airbrush and more dirty water.

Finally some Hornby crates for cargo, and we're ready for launch!

All in all, a lot of fun to make!

Image: Cargo door

Image: Air cylinders

Image: Engine & gantry

Image: Launch pad

Image: Before paint

Image: Engine detail

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This page was last updated 31 July 2009. © 2009 Starship Modeler