Plans for a Command Module of My Own

Even after over four decades, I still clearly recall my third-grade class field trip to the Boston Museum of Science – my first of many visits to come. For a kid like me with a voracious appetite for anything having to do with science (especially anything space-related), the Museum of Science with its many interactive displays was simply heaven. But of everything I saw, the one thing that stuck with me was the kid-friendly, full-size mockup of an Apollo Command Module (CM). Its extra-large opening allowed easy access to its interior with a pair of reclined seats and a wooden mockup of the CM control panels. That same CM mockup (presumably with many renovations after decades of use) survives to this day and is still part of the Museum of Science’s To The Moon display.

The kid-friendly Apollo CM display at the Boston Museum of Science as it appears today.

My only complaint at the time was that the CM display was quite crowded with kids (and adults!) waiting in line to check it out which limited my time inside when it came to be my turn. I could have easily spent an entire day inside this display preferably decked out in my Star Team space helmet and other astronaut regalia I owned at the time. But having seen what my father had done finishing the basement of our home, I figured that it might be possible to build my own mockup of the CM for my personal use.

Fast forward a few years later when I was a bit older but still occasionally dreamed of having my own mockup of the CM in my backyard. By this time I was regularly writing to various NASA centers across the country getting a wide variety of free publications and photographs on various space projects. In one of the packages I received in the mid-1970s was an unassuming set of photocopied pages that had obviously been pulled from some larger document. A closer look revealed that these were plans to build a simple model of the CM!!! I would obviously have to come up with details of the interior (hinted in the photo of a mockup control panel included with the plans) but my childhood dream of building my own full-size model of the CM was one step closer to becoming reality.

First of a set of drawings from 1964 for an early model of the Apollo Command Module. (NASA)

Of course, I never did end up building that model of the CM although the thought has occasionally crossed my mind in an idle moment as an adult. And now that I look at those plans four decades later I realize that the unmarked units of measure on the drawings were not feet but were inches… which makes sense given the materials and construction (after all, where are you going to find a 12-foot piece of wood for the heat shield never mind a lathe to turn it?). So what I actually received all those years ago were plans for a one-inch scale (or 1/12th scale) model of an early version of the CM from 1964. Still, with modifications to the materials used and additional internal structural support, the units in the drawing can still be readily switched from inches to feet and be used as a guide to building a full-size mockup of the CM by someone with a bit more skill (not to mention, a larger yard) than I have.

A (barely) grownup Drew LePage remembering a childhood dream in front of of the Apollo CM display at Kennedy Space Center in 1986.

In hopes of inspiring anyone out there to build their own model of the CM (one-inch scale or full size), I am providing a link to a PDF file of the plans of the Apollo CM I received four decades ago. If any reader decides to actually build the model (one-inch scale or otherwise), please feel free to share the results. Enjoy!!!



After I originally posted this article, a reader kindly provided me with some more information on the origins of the Apollo CM drawings I received from NASA about 40 years ago.  They were prepared as part of a project of the Division of Applied Arts and Sciences of the California State College at Long Beach (now California State University, Long Beach) in cooperation with NASA to provide educational materials for industrial arts teachers in secondary schools.  Started in August of 1963, the project resulted in the publication of a book in 1964 that included drawings of not only a model of the CM but five other pieces of NASA hardware: the Saturn I, Explorer 12, the Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO), the Relay comsat and Mariner 2.  In 1966 a further half dozen drawings were added to the collection: the X-15, the Titan II GLV (Gemini Launch Vehicle), Gemini, TIROS, the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) and the Apollo Lunar Module (LM).  As luck would have it, scans of all of these drawings along with a publication summary are available on line via Sven Knudson’s excellent Ninfinger Productions website which can be reached via this link.  Enjoy!


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