I saw an article in Final Frontier magazine about future lunar exploration plans and one that was mentioned was “First Lunar Outpost”. Once I saw the picture of this thing I knew I had to build a model of it. Since I knew that no commercial kit would ever be made, that left scratchbuilding. Since no dimensions were provided, I was basically free to use my imagination. (Those interested in comparing my model to the “real thing” need only google image search for “First Lunar Outpost".)
Over the course of months I began to collect the materials I’d need for the build. I started with the fuel tanks, each made from two vending machine capsules. This defined the size of the framework, made from aluminum tubing.
That in turn defined the sizes of the lander legs and struts, which are made from sprue, as is the dish antenna mast. The legs and struts are covered with aluminum and gold foil, from candy wrappers.
The solar panels were made from styrene rod, strip, and sheet plastic and are positionable, as is the dish antenna, which was made from a doll accessory plate.
The footpads are bicycle reflectors, the RCS thrusters were made from calculator buttons and tiny bits of sprue. The engine bell was cut from a large piece of vacuum formed plastic that came with a food sample box.
I was not sure how I was going to attach the upper platform to the framework, but I soon came up with the idea of using two identical sheets of styrene, one attached to the framework and the other simply glued on top of it. This permitted separate construction of the top and bottom halves of the model.
The habitat module was made from a length of “Habitrail”, a hamster housing purchased at the local pet store. It was finished at the ends with laminated sheet plastic. The airlock is a coin container purchased at a store catering to coin collectors.
The lunar rovers were micro machines, the astronauts HO model railroad figures, suitably modified for an airless environment. The ladder was also HO equipment.
Even at 1/96th scale, this is a big model. The base measures 20x20 inches. The model itself, not including the antenna mast, is about 7 inches high.
Sometime after building First Lunar outpost I came into possession of a couple of old 1/96th scale Apollo lunar lander kits and used them as starting points to build the additional craft seen on the diorama. You see two astronauts paying homage at an old Apollo descent module, as well as an advanced lander also inspired by a magazine article.
A few words about the advanced lander, it obviously features an Apollo Command module, but the rest is scratchbuilt. (I inverted the Apollo CM as an aesthetic decision.) The LH2 and LO2 tanks are made from fishing floats and vacuum formed sheet styrene using a yo-yo as the prototype. The struts and footpads were from the other Apollo kit. The engines came from a small model of the Saturn 5 rocket. The circular framing around the LO2 tanks came from circular sprue from two 1/48th scale Mercury/Gemini kits, I think it was the sprue surrounding the back end of the Gemini. (Trust me; this thing is steeped in vintage space hardware.)
I envision “First Lunar Outpost” as being from an alternate history in which the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to freeze their military budgets and to channel what would have been the growth of those budgets into peaceful competition in space. The Soviets landed cosmonauts on the moon; the US built Skylab 2 as a continuously manned station similar, in concept, to the Soviet Salyut stations. The Soviets built their Salyuts, and Mir. There were occasional joint missions following Apollo/Soyuz, with the Americans visiting Salyut and the Soviets visiting Skylab 2. The Americans built Freedom, the Soviets built Mir2.