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Atomic City 1/12 scale Project Mercury spacecraft

Kit: No. 0062001
Scale: 1/12
Manufacturer: Atomic City/MRC, available from MRC, 732-225-2100,
Price: $69.98
Comments: Injection-molded, 136 parts (5 vinyl, 4 metal), decals
Pros: Important subject, crisp molding, great decals
Cons: Some ejector-pin marks, sparsely detailed cockpit, vague instruction diagrams
As FSM's resident space geek, I couldn't believe it when I heard that an all-new large-scale injection-molded Mercury space capsule was on the way. The Atomic City/MRC capsule kit is more than most real-space modelers could have dreamed.

Open the kit's massive box and you'll find carefully packed, individually bagged parts trees molded in black, red, clear, and light-gray styrene. The capsule's conical crew cabin is molded in one piece, and a white-vinyl astronaut figure is included.

Each capsule for the six manned Mercury missions was different. This kit closely represents the type flown later in the program, identifiable by its instrument panel and window configuration. Conversion instructions are included for modeling the first capsule, Alan Shepard's "Freedom 7." I modeled the second capsule, Gus Grissom's "Liberty Bell 7."

Assembly starts with the massive escape tower. It's nicely detailed, but a few gaps appear where the tower's triangular legs fit together. Careful test fitting and some styrene shims will improve their strength and appearance.

The capsule's interior is a bit sparse but looks good after some detail painting. The three-section instrument panel is molded in clear and has separate control handles. Some scratchbuilding and conversion work will be necessary to accurately model earlier capsules. Several nicely printed gauge decals are included, but no placement guide is included even though they're numbered on the decal sheet.

The kit's vinyl astronaut figure has a separate clear helmet visor. I painted my figure with Tamiya acrylics and added an artist's-oil wash to help accent the molded-in detail. Several life-support hoses are included, but the instructions are vague about how they attach. I added the largest ones and left off the smaller ones.

The capsule's external retropack is wonderfully detailed. I bent the metal retaining straps to shape over the pack before adding the plastic detail parts with super glue. The three umbilicals (parts No. 78) required careful test fitting before they'd line up with their external plugs. Lots of the kit's parts are designed to be removable, but I glued most of them in place.

Overall, the kit's instruction diagrams are more vague than I'd like. Thankfully, I have a raft of Mercury reference material, but modelers working solely from the kit instructions may become frustrated. Michael Mackowski's Space in Miniature No. 5: Mercury is probably the best all-around reference for building this kit. (Visit www.inficad. com/~mjmackowski/index.html for information on how to order this book.)

Two sheets of decals are provided, including national insignia, stencils, and markings for all six manned missions. A full sheet of retropack pinstripes is included; these appeared on all of the orbital capsules starting with John Glenn's "Friendship 7." All of the decals are beautifully printed, and lay down under a coat of Microscale Micro Sol. As recommended in the instructions, I cut the larger markings apart and applied them in pieces. The distinctive "crack" on Grissom's capsule is not included as a decal; I painted it on.

Despite a few glitches, I'm happy with my straight-from-the-box Mercury capsule - the kit builds into an impressive model of America's first spacecraft. I've already started building a second one and look forward to superdetailing it.

- Matthew Usher
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