Drawing modified from
Johnson's U.S.S. Discovery Blueprints
|Scale Modeling Tutorial by
appeared on the 2OO1: A Space Odyssey Collectibles Exhibit website
been a big fan of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey since I
first saw it in 1969 at the age of 13. Considered a groundbreaking
it set a new standard for how a space movie should look by pioneering
effects techniques and getting visual inspiration from the hardware
during the Space Race of the 1960s.
release of the film, Aurora and Airfix released model kits of the Moon
Bus and the Orion III space plane, also known as the Space
Clipper. There were a few other spacecraft in the film that
would have been great subjects for model kits but nothing else from 2001
was ever produced.
The 1980s and
90s saw the rise of the "garage
kit" industry. These kits are produced by home hobbyists who cast
resin parts by hand (often in their garage). Most garage kits
are of subjects that are not available from the major companies. In the
mid 1980s, Lunar Models produced a garage kit of the Discovery.
| In the early
was rumored to have a few more kits from 2001 in the works but
were ever produced.
| The kit
came in a
heavy corrugated cardboard box with a label and photograph of a
painted kit. Larger parts were in their own separate bags, smaller
separated into two smaller bags. The fuel pods which came in three
were bagged separately. The 3 long spine parts were wedged into the box
diagonally, un-bagged.The kit's instructions can be viewed as a PDF
by clicking here.
kit is patterned
after the Discovery as it appeared in the 1984 movie 2010:
The Year We Make Contact and is slightly different from the Discovery
in 2001. Some modifications to the kit would be needed
make this model look more like the Discvovery from the 1968
not easy to come by in the early 1990s. There was no Internet like we
today. The best resource I had was a VHS print of the film which I
view with a 19-inch TV set. Even with freeze-frame, the image quality
what we now call "standard definition" TV was just not up to the task
providing an image sharp enough for close-up detail.
Lunar Models' Discovery is
an intimidating kit. It includes 84 polyurethane resin parts, many of
are cast poorly. Some of the parts would need some work and others were
just unusable and would have to be replaced. This was the early days of
cast-resin garage kits when casting quality could range from the good
the bad and in some cases, the ugly. This kit would include samples of
"Command Section" had its problems. The middle of the three pod-bay
showed signs of some serious mold deterioration. There were some resin
lumps and berries that were so bad that it became necessary to grind
the entire door with a Dremel rotary tool.
the kit came with an extra bay door to build the kit with the pod-bay
I used it to replace the removed door. A hold-down jig was made to hold
sphere on a milling table to make a flat seat for the new door. The 3/8
inch thick resin of the part was cut with an end mill to just under 1/8
inch and the
new door was glued into place.
looked klunky and a little exaggerated with many air bubbles in the
Some panel lines were at slight angles and others almost looked as if
were scribed freehand. Most of the detail was filled with putty and
smooth until the part was nearly featureless. Instead of
the lost detail back onto the sphere, I decided it would be added back
to the model as painted-on features.
pressure sphere was sanded on the inside until Discovery's
front window was open. The Command Room was scratch-built with sheet
and model railroad bulbs. A video tape of 2001 was used
a reference as was Shane Johnson's "Discovery Blueprints" which have
diagrams of the spaceship's interior. Assorted decals of
from other kits covered the back wall. The Command Room would be
through the narrow slot of the front window so details were kept to a
Three 3-volt model railroad lamps light the interior space - two in the
lower corners, one above the center corridor. The photo on the right
the finished Command Room with a nickel for scale.
the Command Section has eight evenly-spaced depressions which are
in the blueprints as "reaction control thrusters." The Discovery
in the film had only one of these depressions on the forward right
just below the pod-pay door. I filled in the other seven with Squadron
brand filler putty. The air-lock door on the left side of the pressure
sphere was way too deep and looked more like a trench than a door. It
also filled with putty. When the putty was cured it was wet sanded
flush with the curve of the sphere. Cured Squadron putty expands when
gets wet and shrinks when it dries. The putty on the air-lock door
just enough to give it a better, more subtle recess.
the most obvious problem with the Command Section was that the part was
short by 1/8 inch which caused a mismatch between the sphere and the
behind it. A spacer made from 1/8 inch thick sheet styrene was glued to
the back of the sphere which corrected this problem.
section behind the Command Section was replaced with a section of a
Estes Rocket nose cone detailed with a one-half ounce half-and-half
like the kind served in restaurants. This improved on the accuracy of
part. The part was then drilled out and a piece of 1/8-inch K&S
tubing was glued inside to reinforce the joint between the flange and
section, 20-inch long spine is made of resin cleverly cast over brass
strength. The two ends are cast over brass rod and the center section
brass tube, making for a secure fit as well as providing locator pins
the Command Section in the front and "Reactor Section" in the rear. The
spine of my kit was fairly straight and cast pretty well but I have
that owners of later kits weren't so lucky.
was nicely molded with lots of fine detail. One of these details, the
"Segment Clamps" (arrow, right), run along the spine in 36 places. Many
were broken and were replaced with pieces scratch-built from sheet
The kit actually includes a few resin replacements but most of those
short cast or also broken.
sheet has a diagram showing the locations of the 62 "fuel pods" which
in three sizes and are positioned along the spine. Though confusing at
first glance, the instructions were helpful in arranging the fuel pods
in their accurate configuration. In order to ensure that all the pods
look uneven when glued to the spine, a jig was made to hold each one
on a milling table and they were all milled to the same thickness. To
glue the fuel pods to the spine, I made another jig to hold them in a
straight line, similar to the milling jig but 24 inches long to hold an
entire row of pods.
communication antenna and mounting were unusable. The base was
being modeled after the Discovery in 2O1O and
antenna mast was not only warped but short cast. The three dishes were
anything but dish-shaped and the main antenna's probe was so covered
flash and resin lumps that it took me a while to figure out what it was.
A new main
dish was made from a section of a spherical fuel tank from another kit
The two small dishes were made from left-over vacuformed warp drive
from my Enterprise
A new probe
for the main dish was made by chucking a piece of 1/16 inch acrylic rod
in a hand drill and shaping it lathe-style with a needle file. Dish
members were made from strips of .020 inch sheet styrene.
A new swiveling
mast and base were scratch-built from sheet styrene and acrylic rod.
Section was detailed using a combination of K&S brass wire with
parts from other kits. This hollow cast part was almost problem free
an easily cleaned up mold parting line. 1/8-inch diameter holes
drilled in the front and back ends of the part and a length of brass
was glued inside the piece flush with the front and extending 3/8 inch
from the back (indicated by the gray stripe in the photo at left). This
would help to secure the joint between the reactor and the back end of
the spine and would also provide a locator pin for the center engine.
| One of
engines looked as if it were cast during another run of the kit. While
two of them were cast in light tan resin with very sharp detailing, the
third was a darker (maybe older?) resin with very soft details and
in the resin such as air bubbles and "mold berries." It was cleaned up
with a Dremel grinding tool and the addition of sheet styrene.
The EVA pod
is beautifully detailed for its size, about 5/8 inch high. Though not
accurate, I thought it looked good enough to leave alone.
The pod's arms
are cast resin and considering the size show some nice detail. After
how other small parts like the antenna pieces were cast, this was a
surprise. Flash was easily scraped off and no other clean-up was needed.
EXPLOSIVE BOLTS" marking on the door (which may or may not actually say
that - it's too tiny to read) is from a 1/72 aircraft kit.
was painted with Tamiya acrylics. Using my trusty Badger 150 airbrush
lots of masking material, I painted a series of panels in various
of light grey on the Command Section. Details that were sanded off in
process of cleaning up a less than perfect casting job were painted
The spine and
sections were spray painted with medium gray automotive primer. Details
were then colored with a black Sharpie marker. An airbrushed coat of
acrylic paint makes the Sharpie markings just barely visible.
long Discovery was mounted on a scratch-built display stand.
stand's forward support post is topped by a 1/8 inch phone plug which
to a phone jack below and behind the Command Section and provides the 9
volts necessary to light the Command room. The EVA pod is mounted on a
1/8 inch piece of acrylic rod.
I didn't keep a record of my work on this model, I'm sure that with all
the part cleanup and additional scratch-building the Discovery
at least 40 hours to complete. Though this kit presented many
it was a lot of fun to build.
model was filmed for a television program on the Discovery Science
called The Great Books - 2OO1: A Space Odyssey which
examines the writing of the novel and 1969 film by Arthur C. Clarke and
Stanley Kubrick. In a few scenes, actors portray Clarke and Kubrick
at a table covered with typewritten ideas and models from the movie. Discovery
is visible stretched across the middle of the table and the command
actually appears in close-up. The show is available on YouTube and can
be seen by clicking on the image below. The model first appears at
18 minutes into the show.
to the DISCOVERY
AND KIT REVIEWS
- 2O21, Alanoodle Creations