Thursday, 28 August 2008


I guess it was inevitable, discovering an interest in spaceflight as a boy would lead me to collect spacecraft models. Here are a few of my favourites.

The Mercury and Gemini models were manufactured by the Precise Model Company of Elyria, Ohio. Formed in 1960, Precise went on to make many classic aerospace models which found their way on the desks of executives, pilots and astronauts alike.

Arguably the most recognizable and popular proved to be the Apollo Lunar Module. Manufacture is believed to have begun in 1967 and over time the model evolved. Earlier models had simpler base detail, a more defined ladder and a top coat lacquer that was prone to yellowing. The first obvious change being the addition of Neil Armstrong's first words on the moon in July 1969.

VIPs were treated to a more impressive "American Black Walnut" base complimented by a distinctive brass plaque.

Manufactured under contract to the Grumman Corporation (prime contractor for the Apollo Lunar Module) these models were gifted to astronauts, dignitaries and VIPs alike. I understand they were available to employees from the company gift store. It is not known how many were made in total but it is believed production stopped circa 1972 and best guesstimates suggest 5000 were manufactured.

An order dated 1972 from the Grumman Corporation for 500 Lunar Module models.... at $21.44 at piece.
Whatever the number, these models remain popular among collectors and crop up regularly at estate sales, popular on-line auction sites and regular specialist auction houses.

I am certain the Grumman contractors model was the inspiration for the gold model made by renowned jewelers Cartier, and gifted to the Apollo 11 crew during the post mission world tour. Sadly, I don't own the Cartier version.

Walter J.Hyatt Company was the company chosen by North American Rockwell to make this classic "in-house" desktop Apollo spacecraft model: Rockwell was the prime contractor for the Apollo Command and Service modules.

Made from injected moulded plastic and white painted metal I acquired this model from Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Paul Weitz.

A commemorative tableau made by the Danbury Mint circa 1999.

I am very much a fan of the early Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, but I am slowly beginning to appreciate the accomplishments of the space shuttle era: helped in no small measure by this desk top model.

It has the distinction of having been signed by the first female shuttle pilot and shuttle commander, Eileen Collins. Photo credit Annie Leibovitz.