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RealSpace Models 1/72 scale Mercury/Atlas "Friendship 7"

Kit: No.
Scale: 1/72
Manufacturer: RealSpace Models, 813 Watt Dr., Tallahassee, FL 32303
Price: $75
Comments: Cast resin, 22 parts (5 photoetched), decals.

With all the hoopla about John Glenn's return to space, it's nice to glimpse back at the early days of America's manned space programs. A couple of years ago, I built RealSpace's Mercury/Gemini/Apollo capsule set, and the Mercury in that kit reappears here with its formidable (at least in 1/72 scale) Atlas booster. The rocket is solid resin and weighs in at a full pound! The resin's glossy surface makes it ideal for the natural-metal finish.

Assembly of the nine-part booster is simple. The ribbed bottom section includes the fairings over the outboard pair of engines. Exhaust nozzles for the three rockets and an overflow pipe are attached to the bottom. A pair of vernier rockets go on either side of the booster, and a large pipe fits into holes in the upper and lower parts of the structure.

The resin parts are pinhole free, but some nicks and bumps needed to be smoothed out. You must remove extra "pour" material from each resin part, and how well you do that will determine the fit. The most critical part is the hollow adapter that joins the booster with the capsule. If you sand too much of the bottom of the conical adapter or too much off the conical top of the booster, you will create an unrealistic step. All assemblies were attached with gap-filling super glue kicked with accelerator.

The Mercury capsule is composed of two resin parts and photoetched escape rocket tower with three (hollow this time) resin rocket nozzles and a fuel tank. Three photoetched straps are to be attached to the retro-rocket pack on the bottom of the capsule, but these interfered with the fit of the capsule to the adapter, so I left them off. The most difficult part of the project was folding the photoetched escape-rocket tower. RealSpace has etched fold lines into the part, but it is still difficult to fold with precision.

A nice touch is a resin base with a raised pedestal and a photoetched nameplate with John Glenn's "Friendship 7" logo faithfully reproduced in relief. The instructions don't mention the base, and at first it wasn't clear whether the rocket or the nameplate should go on the pedestal. The overflow pipe coming out of the bottom of the booster extends below the engine nozzles, so the booster must sit on the pedestal with the pipe hanging over the side. In any case, there is no attachment mechanism to the base, and the rocket teeters precariously. At Associate Editor Matt Usher's suggestion, I drilled a hole in the base, super glued a nut into the center engine nozzle, and threaded a machine screw up through the base. The screw is gingerly tightened to prevent pulling the nut from the nozzle (or the nozzle from the booster).

I painted the bottom of the booster, exterior fuel pipe, and rocket nozzles flat aluminum. The main portion of the booster is covered with Bare-Metal Foil (regular and chrome). The capsule is semigloss black with a gloss-red escape-rocket assembly.

Decals are provided for the booster and capsule. The assembly diagram in the instructions shows one side of the booster, but does not indicate the location of the markings on the other side. I assumed they were the same. The markings all snuggled down with a little Micro Sol.

I sprayed the brass nameplate semigloss black, and when it was dry, I carefully sanded the paint off the raised lettering. I painted the "Friendship 7" logo white and red as it appeared on the capsule. A thin wash of semigloss black covered slopped-over white paint between the letters.

The finished model is impressive. It doesn't take long to build, but foiling the booster was time-consuming. I spent about 20 hours on it including engineering the base mount. It stands 16" tall and looks big - until I posed it next to my 1/72 scale Monogram Space Shuttle stack.

- Paul Boyer

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