[Starship Modeler's 23rd on-line modeling contest: Departures]

   Voyage – Ares

Scale: 1/144

We choose to go to Mars....

Based on the Stephen Baxter novel “Voyage”, the Ares is the spacecraft that took the first people to Mars. In this alternative history novel (which I can highly recommend reading), JFK survives the assassination attempt in Dallas. Following the successful Moon landing in 1969, JFK inspires the country to set a new challenge for NASA: “... to continue the building of our great ships, and fly them onward to Mars.”

In this alternative history, the later Moon missions are cancelled and all efforts are put into the development of the manned Mars mission. This also involves the cancellation of the Space Shuttle programme. Initially the development is focused on the use of nuclear rocket technology. However following a difficult development that ultimately leads to a tragedy in orbit, the nuclear option is cancelled and the Ares mission using conventional propulsion and elements from the Apollo program is put together, landing 3 people on Mars in 1986.

The Ares spacecraft is shown in the Mars orbit and Return to Earth configurations. The vehicle presented in the novel essentially uses a crewed section similar to Skylab (S-IVB Saturn 5 third stage fitted out as a pressurised module), with additional Saturn 5 stages used for the transfer & arrival at Mars and the departure and arrival back at Earth. Newly developed is the Mars Excursion Module (MEM), which is attached to the crewed section.

Of note in this build:

Scratch built from two Airfix Saturn 5 models (1 new, 1 I had from about 20 years ago, back around the 25 anniversary, amazingly) for the three main modules, the CSM and the top of the MEM. Details from the launch escape towers have been used for the central section structure. Taking the idea forward that in the novel NASA has to “scratch build” a mission to Mars, many of the greebel items on the model are from other spacecraft models of the era, such as MIR (smaller solar arrays, magnetometer boom, the structures that the CSM and MEM attach to, the main radiator on the central section) and Apollo LM (many of the little details attached to the central section including the dish). I especially like the zig-zag of the MIR arrays, I wish I had more of these.

The larger solar arrays and the lower section of the MEM are scratch built from parts from a model supply store (cone and dish, C-section beams) Further detail has been added around the main engines as the original Airfix version was very basic. This has been done using map pins and wire. The insulating materials (the orange/gold coloured foils) is the same material used on spacecraft (old spare material from work). The radiators on the central section are made using aluminium tape which conforms to the subsurface (nice trick for shiny surfaces with cleaner lines than painting with masking tape).

The painting pattern on one of the modules follows that of the Skylab micrometeorite shield which was lost on the actually Skylab launch. The Ares, NASA logos and the solar cells were printed on deal sheet using a colour laser printer (definitely worth it as had a lot of difficultly with decal sheets for inkjet printers in the past).

The Ares “worm” logo has been created using elements of the NASA “worm”. The Ares logo on the MEM and the crew module is a modified version of the Ares insignia from the Constellation program (I replaced the star at the apex with a stylised image of Mars)

The three main modules can be rearranged for displaying different spacecraft configurations. The CSM is attached to the central section using neodymium magnets and can be repositioned for the Earth return configuration. The MEM descent stage and legs have also been scratch built to display a landed configuration.

All up a very enjoyable build and has been very nice exploring an alternative spacecraft design using components from real space. Probably one of the first builds which my wife has been impressed by, which is always a nice achievement.

Image: End view of MEM

Image: Mars orbit underside

Image: MEM - return from Mars surface

Image: Earth orbit - return

Image: Detail of center section

Image: Detail - docked MEM before landing

Image: Detail - retuen to Earth configuration

Image: Detail - central section

Image: Side view

Image: Configurations



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