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LEM Kit

Monogram 1/48 First Lunar Landing Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2007 Manufacturer Monogram
Subject First Lunar Landing Scale 1/48
Kit Number 6060 Primary Media Styrene, Foil, Tinted Acetate
Pros Classic kit that looks as good as ever Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $29.95

First Look

LEM Kit
LEM Kit
LEM Kit
LEM Kit
LEM Kit

The Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) was a new type of spacecraft that would perform the first ever rocket-powered landing followed by a rocket-powered take-off. The vehicle was designed by Grumman to provide two astronauts with three days of life support in which they would leave their Apollo mothership, descend to the lunar surface, conduct experiments, explore the surrounding terrain, collect lunar rock and soil samples, then launch back into lunar orbit, rendezvous with the Apollo mothership, and return to Earth.

While this all sounds simple enough today, the concept of a powered landing was still new science for NASA and Neil Armstrong had the benefit of flying the Lunar Lander Research Vehicle (LLRV), a LEM-like flyable hovercraft that was powered by a central lift engine and stabilized with attitude control jets, just like the LEM. On one of Armstrong's flights, however, the LLRV malfunctioned. Armstrong was able to safely eject before the LLRV crashed and exploded. He still completed his training on other LLRVs and set off for the moon.

When the Apollo 11 LEM reached the surface of the moon on 20 July 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and 'Buzz' Aldrin discovered that how close they had come to staying there. The interior of the LEM is not much bigger than a broom or server closet, yet the interior is covered with switches and controls to operate the various systems on the LEM. When you cram two astronauts inside that closet wearing their space suits and backpacks, you could imagine how little room there was to move about. Evidently, one of the backpacks had sheared off the switch handle that armed the LEM's ascent engine. No switch, no take-off. As the story goes, the handy Fisher Space Pen rescued the team - the pen was dismantled, the hollow end slipped over the broken switch stub, and they were able to arm their ascent motor.

The LEM would safely take a pair of astronauts down to the lunar surface on six different missions, and each of these were significant contributions to manned space flight and space science. Yet the most significant contribution of the LEM was providing life support and propulsion for the crippled Apollo 13 mission. Without the LEM and the engineering excellence of NASA's experts at home, those three astronauts would have surly perished after their spacecraft exploded after leaving Earth orbit and commited to lunar trajectory.

Alright manned spaceflight fans, the long out of production 1/48 scale LEM and its 'First Lunar Landing' vignette has finally reappeared. Thanks to Stevens International, Revell-Monogram was commissioned to reissue this kit on the heels of last year's 1/32 Apollo spacecraft, also commissioned by Stevens. Thank you!!

As with the orgininal release from Monogram many moons ago (sorry), the display base is molded in gray styrene and the shadows cast by the LEM, astronauts, and lunar experiments, were all relief-molded into the surface of the display base. No matter, this looks very nice when properly painted.

The rest of the kit is presented on two parts trees molded in white styrene. For some reason, one of the parts trees is cut into two sections before being packaged for shipment.The kit also includes a nice sheet of gold foil that protects the descent module, a set of gold-tinted acetate windows for the ascent module, and a set of decals for the LEM, space suits, and the US flag that was erected on the lunar surface.

Assembly of this kit is not at all difficult, though you'll want to exercise some patience to clean up and install all of those thin styrene struts. You'll probably spend more time painting, specifically detail-painting the LEM, space suits, display base, and lunar experiments. There are LOADS of photos on the internet to help with color and overall appearace details that you'll want to capture with your project.

One little detail that will make the model look even better are the attitude control thrusters mounted around the ascent module. All four engine bells on each of the four thruster assemblies are molded solid. If you carefully drill out, then hollow out parts of each engine bell, you'll add some nice fidelity to your finished LEM.

While it has been years (I won't say how many) since I last saw and built this model, I recall that the color call-outs in the instructions were not all correct. Once again, check them against photos and even then, make sure that the photos are from Apollo 11 as details sometimes change between missions.

Kudos again to Stevens International for reviving this kit! This was a fun model to build and looked great on display (as long as there are no cats around). Now if we can convince someone to reissue the 1/24 Monogram Gemini capsule, we'll have five detailed spacecraft to reflect US manned spaceflight history:

I would also like to see the Revell 1/24 Vostok as well as the 1/96 Apollo-Soyuz reissued to expand coverage into Soviet spaceflight as well.

 

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