Last night I had a breakthrough on some of the detailing for the workbee. While doing some online searching at some model hobby shop websites which have some decent background information on model kits, some including photos of the kits sprue tree. One of the sites had a section on “sci-fi” kits section. Curious as to what they had on them clicked on it and it had lumped in model kits of actual space hardware, such as the NASA rockets listed on that page.
One of them was a 50th anniversary re-issue of an old Revell/Monogram “First Lunar Landing” model kit commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing. As a lark I clicked on it, and noticed in the background a familiar looking shape. It looked like “greebles” I had been modeling in 3D a few months back, but had only a single image of the single filming miniature to use as a reference.
Upon closer look at some of the model kit images, I came across a close up of the piece in question.
There is no doubt that it is absolutely the original kit piece that was used on the underside of the workbee. The part in question is meant to represent the Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP).
The PSEP detected lunar “moonquakes” and provided information about the internal structure of the Moon.
On Apollo 11 the PSEP was part of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP), which was later expanded in subsequent Apollo landings as part fo the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP). The PSEP studied the propagation of seismic waves through the Moon and provided our most detailed look at the Moon’s internal structure.
The Apollo 11 seismometer returned data for just three weeks but provided a useful first look at lunar seismology. More advanced seismometers were deployed at the Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 landing sites and transmitted data to Earth until September 1977. Each of these seismometers measured all three components of ground displacement (up-down, north-south, and east-west).
When a seismic event is observed by three or more seismometers, the time and location of the event can be determined. This is how we determine the epicenter of earthquakes here on Terra. Because seismic waves from distant events travel deeper into the Moon than waves from nearby events, by measuring events at varying distances from the seismometer it can be determined how seismic velocities vary with depth and this information can be used to study the Moon’s internal structure.
Most of the events observed by the seismometers deployed during the Apollo program were naturally occurring and due either to moonquakes or to meteoroid impacts. However, the third stages of several Saturn V rockets and the ascent stages of several lunar modules were deliberately crashed into the Moon after these spacecraft were no longer needed in order to produce seismic events of known times and locations which were used to helped calibrate the network of seismometers.
In the comparison image below, you can see how I had originally modeled the piece, which in the original David Kimble blueprints produced in 1979, is referred to as the “Package Main Attachment Connector”:
Below are some images of the 3D piece I had come up with before I identified the actual model kit part. All in all, I got pretty close considering I only had one reference image to work from.
I had to work off of how the cast shadow was projected onto the flat base plate in the image, to try and interpret what the front profile of the arms were. Below is the aforementioned reference image of the piece:
Now that I have ID’ed the actual model part used on the original filming miniature, I should be able to go back and do a more accurate modeling of the piece. Knowing what the actual NASA equipment it was trying to represent, and knowing that the original model kit was 1:48 scale, I can hopefully get a more precisely sized 3D piece. That is of course is based on the assumption that Revell/Monogram were somewhat close to producing the piece close to the proper size at scale.
There are several YouTube videos of scale-modelers who have reviewed and/or built the actual kit, so I might try reaching out to them to see if any would be willing to snap a few close-up photos next to a ruler so I could work out the exact size. Not sure if any would be that interested in doing so for some stranger, but we’ll see.
Of course I could actually purchase the kit (which is still available) and then use my digital calipers to measure every single dimension of the piece, though I’m not sure I could justify spending upwards of twenty dollars just to get a single part.
While I could accurately model the piece as shown in the kit, it’s still a highly simplified rendition of the actual PSEP.
I may still retain some of my interprtead “idealized” take on the part, and add additional detailing to making it a “working” assembly of components “in-universe”. It is a fine line to walk as to whether to just faithfully reproduce the simplified model part (which is only added to the filming miniature for visual interest) or to use that as a starting point and conceptualize the “intended” component of the workbee and add additional detailing to it?
I am leaning toward the latter approach, though I will produce drawings of the actual model kit part as it exists in reality as an addendum to the larger body of developed materials I am producing for the workbee as a whole.
It would be ideal to be able to ID any of the remaining kit bashed parts on the workbee. There has developed an entire sub-culture in Star Wars fandom, in identifying the individual model kit parts used to detail the Millennium Falcon, as well as some model replica producers who reverse engineered all the model kit parts used in 1977 to build the “hero” Y-Wing fighter miniature from Star Wars.
Given that John Dykstra and his team at Apogee worked with Douglas Trumbull on Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ST:TMP), it would be interesting to try and run down and review images of all the kits (and more specifically their sprue trees) that were ID’ed for Star Wars filming miniatures, to see if any cross-over occurred and see if any parts on any of those kits yield some identifying the other kitbashing compentns on the workbee.
We know for example that there is piece from a Hasegawa 1:72 scale German Krupp K5 “Leopold” (nicknamed “Anzio Annie” by the allies) railway gun model kit, which was produced in 1976 which has been used in multiple movie and television franchises in the 1970s (and up into the digital age). That kit has a piece that Adam Savage of MythBusters fame (who also worked at Industrial Light & Magic) discusses in a video post on his blog “Tested” about it being a “universal greeble” which was used on almost every Star Wars model.
Ken Mcconnell had a blog post which talks about it.
That piece was also used extensively to detail miniatures such as the Cylon Raider in the original Battlestar Galactica series, which Dykstra also was responsible for that shows miniature effects. The universal greeble even turns up on the actual U.S.S. Enterprise-refit from ST:TMP, in the aft planetary sensor dome array cowling.
It’s also worth noting that the smaller scale Cylon Raider original model kit from Monogram, which came out just as Battlestar Galactica was airing, was actually used as a costume chest-plate detailing for some crew members in ST:TMP. Several extras can be seen wearing them in the rec. room crew briefing scene.
These costumes were re-used for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan where the backpack (and the attached chest piece) is seen being worn by a custodial worker cleaning up a hallway at Starfleet Headquarters as Admiral Kirk leaves the bridge simulator and is met by Captain Spock to discuss the trainees’ performance. They appear again later in the film where a crewman is seen wearing the same backpack/chest piece unit as the ship is preparing to battle Khan in the Mutara Nebula in the films climax.
Down the road, I have more information and hope to eventually post a deep-dive on this costume/prop.
So all that said, there is precedence of a seeing of certain model kits that were available in the mid- to late-1970s being “cross-pollenated” and used by the various special effects production teams. So hopefully I can do some more sleuthing to ID more parts as this OCD-fueled journey progresses.
I have made some more progress on the headlight assembly as well as the lower side panels I mentioned in previous posts, and hope to post an update on those in the coming days.