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Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

28 April 2021

Clear Skies, Mike.

Michael Collins has passed on. He was the silent one, the one who stayed behind. The first one who had to consider returning alone if his two colleagues would not return from the moon. before Apollo 11, Mike had flown a successful Gemini mission with John Young on which he did a spacewalk.

After leaving NASA Mike Collins, amongst other things, became director of the National Air and Space Museum. 

Photo: NASA / Wikipedia Commons
 

But his most significant thing to me of what he did after leaving NASA was writing Carrying The Fire. His autobiography, not even aided by any ghost writer, just him. And it is the best astronaut book of them all. It is witty, comprehensible, full of great anecdotes, exciting stories and great insights into the world of the astronaut and his daily business. It really is the best book written on how it is to be an astronaut. Period. I recommend it to everyone.

Michael Collins was 90 years old and died of cancer. But he really had an awesome life. I wish him clear skies and godspeed. Thanks for your time with us . And that awesome book. 

Read it people.

17 February 2021

a Random Zio appreciation moment.

Have I ever told you how I just love to build a paper model plane designed by Fabrizio Prudenziati?
Yes I have. And I think I will tell it again some day. And maybe again after that.

Here's this pretty Tiger Moth, designed by Fabrizio Prudenziati I built this week.

After a long, almost tedious big build, there’s nothing as good as a quick result which also looks awesome. Zio’s planes always look the part, are done in a couple of hours and look a million euros (especially with some extra little tweaks, like a spinning propeller). They actually really make me happy. There are things that make me happier, like when I hear the full-hearted laughing of my girlfriend. That really is the happiest I can get.
But Zio’s planes are really good in keeping me sane and for keeping my state of mind in a positive mood, especially in these crazy and challenging times. Why don’t I build more of them?

Their way of constructing is odd at the beginning, the two-sided glue tabs still are counter-intuitive to me. But they are able to give a good closed hull when you get used to it. The scale differs a bit from model to model but I don’t bother any more, I just build them. I love the way Zio has designed the curvatures from hull to wing in his Spitfire model. I love the way you have to keep on shaping and bending the paper during glueing and suddenly there’s the shape of the plane. I love the simplicity of the mostly just one-page kits. I think they’re ideal for holidays, otherwise lost hours, and any day you cannot get out because it’s raining or there’s a lockdown in your country.

Every time I start a model made by Zio, I also am amazed by the colouring. The older models almost look hand-painted. Some, like his early Spitfires, have a grainy, yet pleasing quality to them the later models do not have. As if they’re coloured in with pencils. The lines and colours get more and more crisp later on. The metallic models have a lovely shine to them. They are quite hard to recolour because of this artistic quality of his original colouring. I have recoloured a couple of his models, like the Saetta. But I almost had to redraw them completely on the computer to make recolouring more easy. So mostly, I don’t bother. The pleasure in Zio’s models is building them.

I am happy I never get bored by building or re-building these magnificent little kits. They’re easy to tweak, for example, I often use cereal box card to thicken the tail section’s leading edges, I often use the carve-and-roll technique to accentuate the wing ribs of the WW1 planes, I sometimes detail the engines and I almost always use Leiff Ohlssons magnificent propeller model for more realism. The propeller always need to be able to spin. I have a couple of older models that do not have a spinning prop and I am going to redo them soon. I also gave away my spitfire I built on holiday some years ago to a friend. So I need to do that one again, too. Plenty of models left!

I have this plan to create a big mobile of all the WW1 planes one day, hanging from the ceiling in an everlasting dogfight.

Zio has shuffled off his mortal coil in spring 2014, but his memory is kept alive by all of his vividly coloured and fun to make models. And by them he will not be forgotten. He left us with the biggest joy a paper model builder can have. a few dozen of really good-looking, easy to make, little one-page miracles.

Mille Grazie, Fabrizio Prudenziati!

Thanks for stopping by and until next time.

--PK

(After the jump some more photos of this joyful little Tiger Moth.)

18 January 2021

Shuttle Endeavour & ET & SRB's last build report

Well, after the single photo of yesterday, here a more in-depth story on the last leg of the build. First a photo to better estimate the size of the model, the rest of the story is after the jump.


17 January 2021

Shuttle Endeavour with External Tank and Boosters: Finished!

 Finally. Finally I have finished the Shuttle stack. Some kind of build report of the last leg will follow later, here's a photo which proofs it's done. As we Dutchies say: Hè hè!.

The photo is a biggie so click on it and see the stains and blemishes! (-:

See you soon for some more in-depth talk about the shuttle. I now have to do some grocery shopping in this neverending lockdown.

Stay healthy, stay happy, keep your distance, be nice (and don't storm any capitols, even when some pea-brained orange wankstain tells you to.)

--PK

08 December 2020

Clear skies, Chuck.

General Charles Yeager is dead. He lived his 97 years to the maximum and after he broke te sound barrier in 1947 he remained the man on top of the pyramid, whether he wanted it or not. Revered by his brethren as THE pilot, he definitely was one of the best ones, being able to fly a piano if a piano could fly and still make it look easy.

Now he has passed on he can reunite with Glennis, Ridley and all of the legendary pilots and astronauts that went before him to that great airfield in the sky.

Enjoy the tailwinds from here on, General.

Here's Glamorous Glennis as she looked when Yeager took the plane over mach one.
I built this model in 2013...  But the tail of the X-1 really was stolen from the Miles M.52! (-;



07 December 2020

Ooh, the horror! Chibi planes! (But I like them anyway!)

 Hi,

It’s been a crazy time and they still are weird and crazy. Like almost everyone I suffer from moodswings and periods with an utter lack of creativity, although I have plenty of time on my hands for creative stuff. Lockdown and limited people in my life someties make me a moody person. So, whilst desperately in need of some mindful filling of time, some quality building but not interested enough to pick up the SRB, I rummaged through my files for a quick and pleasing short-term inbetweenie. And while I usually aren’t really into chibi stuff, I decided to make Propeller Factory’s funny design of the fictitious Savoia S.21 seaplane flown by pig-faced Marco ‘Porco Rosso’ Pagot (or Rossolini if you will) in the Studio Ghibli anime of the same name, designed by Kamome. 

It was a fun build, thanks to Google Translate. I hardly made any photos during the build, it wasn’t meant as a build report anyway. It is always nice to have a new approach to how to create curved sections and seaplane hulls, especially when the fit is good and the result looks the part.
For the propeller I skipped the kit’s version and used Leiff Ohlson’s articulated wooden propeller because it has more of the right shape. And it looks great.
It didn’t take very long until the pane was finished and stood on its little pedestal i made from a small wooden nut serving cup turned upside down with an added ‘sea surface’ with transparent acrylic paste.

I watched the film afterwards, and it was enjoyable. It was, as I expected, a little shallow but absolutely entertaining and very well drawn. With anime, I usually prefer the english dubbed versions because I find the voice acting in Japanese, although original, always a little too hysterical for my taste*. Sorry, purists! 

But wait, there's more!

After the break I'll show you what.

* exception to the rule is of course the masterpiece anime Akira.

20 October 2020

The Wrong Stuff. (a rant about TV-series that tell stories about air and space.)

My Girlfriend and I watched episode 1 of a new Dutch TV drama series the other night, called "Vliegende Hollanders" (Flying Dutchmen) about the start of the KLM in 1919 and the love-hate relationship that KLM-founder Albert Plesman had with Anthony Fokker. It looked really good. Especially for a Dutch series, it had busloads of beautiful CGI and well-crafted sets. Only things I found a little less than good were the language which was way too modern sounding, and the weird choice of music in a dance scene (in 1919) where they used much too modern sounding music and the people actually danced like it was 1999. Not contemporary and very anachronistic. I really don't mind modern scores over period dramas but the music in the drama should be correct. But for the rest, I liked the first episode and I really liked that a Dutch film company took the effort to tell a little told Dutch aviation story.

In the United States, there once was a creative film industry with interesting productions and TV series. Nowadays, it is all caped and masked superheroes and remakes of classic movies that don't deserve a modern remake because the originals were just damn good in their own right. 

Like Philip Kauffman's The Right Stuff (1983).
The three-hour long movie showed us the beginning of rocket flight with the Bell X-1, the plane that broke the sound barrier, briefly made Chuck Yeager the hero of the day and moved on to tell the story of the Original Seven, the first American Astronauts. The movie focused on the effort. The astronaut group and its dynamics. But mainly on the effort as a whole. The story of The Space Race.
The actors were very well cast. Ed Harris really was John Glenn. Dennis Quaid and Pamela Reed were excellent as Gordo and Trudy Cooper. Scott Glenn depicted Alan Shepard very well. And all of them also looked a lot like the people they portrayed.
Nevertheless, the film was also flawed. For instance, there weren't that many Germans involved in making the Mercury capsule. Also, Jack Ridley wasn't alive anymore to give Yeager one of his Beemans when Yeager made his F-104 zoom flight and got in a spin. And maybe even more important, the Liberty Bell splashdown was told in a way that could suggest Gus actually did blow the hatch (he didn't. It has been proven.) But what made the original so good in spite of all its flaws? The drive and the focus on the actual story. No repeats of situations. Suggestion instead of explicit visual clues. And great visual effects. I won't mention Bill Conti's hastily composed and pompous soundtrack of which half was stolen borrowed from Tchaikovsky. Oh. Now I actually did mention it. (-;

Now in this remake-era, Disney+ has made a daring move. An actual remake of The Right Stuff. Apparently approved by Tom Wolfe himself, just a few months before his death. The story would be remade into a high-level of production TV series. Great. Fantastic, perhaps. The story is legendary and there is so much more to tell than just what the movie had time for. So a series version of the story sounded great. But now, what gets the main focus? The wrong stuff. Especially for someone who knows the story by heart and is a bit of a space buff as well.

First, let me tell you what I do like about the series up til now. The pacing is good. The editing up til now is modern yet classic enough to be timeless. Even the CGI is all right. But the storytelling is far from good. It just is plain bad. Cheap. Let me explain.

Now, being a filmmaker myself, I know the importance of having to condense a story when making a film adaptation of a book. I know that one has to skip or combine people and situations to make stories more accessible or comprehensible. And also, you have to make the story accessible to people that don't know a lot about spaceflight history. So you have to write stuff in that is more or less general drama-inducing stuff. Like relations between people. Intrigues and hidden agendas always work well in a drama. But you can also exaggerate things way too much. But now you have the opportunity to make this story into a series, maybe even more than one season. So now you can add lots of details, personal stories, side stories, more things that are in the book, things that actually happened but were omitted because of time and complexity. And there's so much more to tell about that very story. Dozens of books were written about them.

Kauffmann's film and Tom Wolfe's book were about "The Right Stuff". What made these flying men what they were. How they put that to use in the space program. How they trained, how they behaved among themselves, how they were annoying test pilots. Tom Wolfe's book was about how members of the unsung Brotherhood of Fearless Test Pilots tried and climbed to the Top of the Pyramid to be recruited for Project Mercury. Tom Wolfe's book was about how the women of those fearless pilots lived in fear every day, with the real possibility their man wouldn't come back alive from his job. The struggle the families had adapting to the invasive media, with married life and the temptations outside of it.

Yes, the men were adulterous. But until now, in this series, it's like all they appear to do. So unnecessary. They screw almost every girl they meet like hormone-driven teenagers. This is not subtle in any way. You could also leave that to the viewer's suggestion. In one of the first scenes Shepard has a one-night stand and prepares to leave. That would have been enough. And anyway, it is not needed in the extent it is used now to tell the story of what The Right Stuff originally was about: Project Mercury. The Original Seven almost start to look like incapable of anything else but screwing girls and acting like idiots with a glass of whiskey in their hands. I only have seen Gordo Cooper flying an F-104 early in the first episode but none of the other six have been shown flying. They were pilots, dammit!  And of that I cannot see anything back in the series. They threw out the Yeager story, which is, in my opinion, vital to the overall storyline. that was where it more or less began. The top of the pyramid, the pushing the outside of the envelope and all that. The urge to go higher, farther and faster.

Instead of showing more of the space effort, they aparently decided to put the focus on the astronaut's adulterous escapades, their rivalries (which there definitely were, but not in the extent shown in the series so far) and lots of other excessive behaviour as well. The drinkin' and flyin' and flyin' and f*ckin' all was part of Tom Wolfe's book. But that wasn't the main focus. It wasn't what the story was about.
Yes, Glenn was an ascete in a sea of car crazy, girl humpin', scotch drinkin' and hot planes flyin' brotherhood. He really was. And Glenn only was friends with Scott Carpenter. (who hardly has a role in the series, 'Renée', his wife has had more lines than he has!) The rest of the Original Seven found Glenn just off-beat and soon realised he wasn't one of the jockey's like they were. Glenn did try to talk some sense into the other six about their promiscuous behaviour, with no success, I presume. They had their 'seances' about stuff like that. The other six might have disliked Glenn a little more after that. But Glenn and Shepard weren't that hateful to eachother. Not even behind the scenes. They knew where to draw the line. They were military officers. Professionals. They knew they had to work together. In this series, there is a lot of intrigue and suspicion and scheming going on, as in every average soap opera. BUT. THIS. STORY. IS. SUPPOSED. TO. BE. ABOUT. SPACEFLIGHT.

The struggling relationship of Trudy and Gordo Cooper is done all right and is actually better than I expected. The short scenes on this subject in the original film were good because of what you could read inbetween the lines. in the TV-series they're good because of the well-played interactions between the two actors. You can feel their distance, their grief and pain, their troubles with trying to mend their marriage, the misunderstandings and struggles with their communications. Their relationship is damaged for good but they keep on trying. I liked that bit. It is cringey, sad and moving. You feel for both of them. There are some mistakes, like Trudy's second departure from Gordo (she actually stayed with him until 1970 before leaving him for good).  And maybe this focus on just the Coopers - and the Shepards in a lesser extend - is standing for the marital problems they almost all had (apart from the Glenns). but is isn't a show about couples' marital problems. THIS. STORY. IS. SUPPOSED. TO. BE. ABOUT. SPACEFLIGHT.

Now for a non space-buff this might be all very well. It looks great and it gives a sense of how it might have been. Mad Men in space. Except it wasn't. Far From it. With the focus on the relationships and the dramas, what I really miss is the base, the origins and the tone of Tom Wolfe's story. The film says it is based on the book. I don't see that anywhere. I don't feel the urgency of the Mercury project, how hard people were working to get it from the ground. Not even in the background. In the book you read about the fear of the Soviets being first with a man in space. In the book you can read about the influence the astronauts wanted to have on the design. How each one of them got a specialty to deal with during the project. (Glenn was working on the cockpit interior, Cooper studied the Redstone, to name just two), the details of their training. The jokes they made with Dee O'Hara. The way they developed into the astronauts they eventually were. Character development of all the seven astronauts. None of these things are shown in the series.
Yes, the MASTIFF scene was a nice touch and nicely done too, but there was so much more. The writers now made it look like the pilots just were chosen after the (very short mentioned) Lovelace trials, and now they could just party on until it was time to be launched. These men wanted to fly. They demanded - and got - jet planes to fly. They trained extensively in capsule mockups long before the prototype arrives at Hangar S. (which in the series is just a hangar with an S on it, and far from the significant place it actually was.)
It now feels like the writers didn't want to include anything which made the film and especially the book so great and significant and just create a 13-in-a-dozen-kinda soap in the early sixties. BUT. THIS. STORY. IS. SUPPOSED. TO. BE. ABOUT. SPACEFLIGHT.

Mistakes are piling up. And I am not even talking about uniform goofs or details like that. It's the historical facts they get wrong that grind my gears. years in which things happened. The Redstone test with the launching nose cone was long after the three astronauts were chosen for the first three flights, and no one, not even a German was about to fire bullets in the rocket. That is the silliest thing they wrote into the series. They worked with the Redstone for many years at that time and knew what to expect from it. Furthermore, Alan Shepard's crippling Menière's disease started after Mercury, not before. Certainly not like this, because he would've been grounded right away. Tinnitus and Menière are no jokes in a high-risk environment. Shepard also knew that and he wouldn't take that risk. Glenn never was the solo player and schemer he is portrayed as. He was too much of a devout christian for that. In the 1983 movie it was Grissom that was portrayed very wrong as the hatch blower, now it apparently is Glenn who we have to hate. Why bring these heroes down? Flying legend Jerrie Cobb meeting up with Trudy Cooper to ask her to let Gordo promote her case of wanting to become an astronaut? And then ask Trudy to become part of the FLATs? Give me a break! That never happened! Why put this utter nonsense like that in this series? There are so many good (auto)biographies written about the Original Seven and their wives to use as a genuine source of information. They just made up stories to create a badly written soap opera out of this real story. AND. THIS. STORY. WAS. SUPPOSED. TO. BE. ABOUT. SPACEFLIGHT!

Finally, in the 8th episode, there is some spaceflight. Finally. We needed to wait seven looooong episodes before one of the astronauts gets to ride a rocket. (Calling a previous episode Vostok and just mentioning the Gagarin flight in the last minute. Yeah, nice one, guys. Cheap, too.) And even then they mess it up. Yeah, they got things right like Glenn and the "No Handballing" sign in the capsule. And Shepard's bladder problem. But why not using the original "All right, I'm cooler than you are. Why don't you fix your little problem and light this candle?" - quote? Why still depicting Glenn as a sore loser? And why does it feel like the MR-3 flight to the writers is only a kind of disturbing break in the ongoing soap drama? THIS. STORY. ACTUALLY. WAS. SUPPOSED. TO. BE. ABOUT. SPACEFLIGHT!

I kept watching, hoping it would get better in the long run, but it didn't. It remained a badly written soap opera, neglecting the beating heart of the original story. The writers of this series have royally screwed the pooch. They should at least have used a different title just to avoid any comparison with that magnificent book and good (but flawed) movie. Tom Wolfe is high-speed rotating in his grave. This series really is The Wrong Stuff. Wouldn't recommend it. 0,5 out of 5 stars.

Why can't they make a decent series about this subject? It is as if the real events aren't exciting enough for Hollywood writers, so they invent intrigues and create more over-the-top-drama. The Right Stuff wasn't that exaggerated. From the Earth to the Moon, in my opinion the last great effort to create a real historically correct spaceflight series, is 22 years old now - and has not yet been equalled, let alone improved.

--PK [edited 2020-11-26]

16 October 2020

Hon Hon, C'est un Caudron!

 Oui, oui, I said I would build an inbetweenie so I did. I said I might build something by Fabrizio Prudenziati but this one has been on the list for some time too.

Those interbellum French planes really had that je-ne-sais-quoi. They were sleek, long and short-winged, fast and just like Citroëns, very unique in their shape and appearance. Caudron built a lot of these racing planes in the thirties and this culminated in the Caudron Rafale.

The C.450 is one of the many versions of this plane, flown by, amongst others, Hélène Boucher. In 1934 she set a couple of records in this machine. She only had her pilot's license for two years and yet she flew as if she never has done anything else. Concentrating at aerobatics first, she drew lots of spectators to her performances in her Gypsy Moth. Soon thereafter, she bought a new plane and tried her luck on racing. She signed a contract with aircraft manufacturer Caudron and soon flew with their high-speed aircraft in air races. She set a new speed record over 100 and 1000 kilometres and the all-round speed record for women. Unfortunately, she crashed when taking off in a Caudron C. 430 in november 1934 and died of her injuries, only 26 years old.

All Caudron planes answered to the same aesthetics. long-nosed, short-winged. French paper model designer Philippe Renesson designed a very sturdy and super-tight fitting model of the C.450. This is the result, after the jump some build pictures.

Boucher apparently was not bothered with superstitious thoughts. She flew the number thirteen.


10 October 2020

... And on with the show.

I am really busy at the moment, so that's why the updates are less frequent than I would like to. But in august already I promised you some progress pics, so here they are.

 

Not much, I admit, and the whole process has to be repeated once more, but the first SRB is there, apart from the struts attaching it to the External Tank. More on the build below, after the jump.

13 September 2020

Gerard Methorst 1938-2020

I have had some really sad news today. Gerard Methorst has died. 

He was a prolific paper model designer and I have corresponded with Gerard a lot in the past couple of years. He really was such a kind and lively man with a passion for life and a broad interest, always happy to talk to us 'youngsters'. 

Gerard was a land surveyor by profession, but he always had a big interest in aircraft. He wrote me that when he was young, he would have loved to become a fighter pilot in the Dutch Air Force after he finished school. But he was bad at maths, so that was out of the question. His other passion, drawing, also wasn't really appreciated, his father decided he had to go to technical university (HTS). That is what he reluctantly did, although he learnt to appreciate it later on in life. 

I really enjoyed corresponding with him about different approaches on paper modeling. He told me about the techniques he used to build his planes and I liked to show him comparisons with his models and how other designers solved issues in getting shape and scale right. Our discussions often had scale and (line)drawing and CAD software as subjects. Strange to never even have had the slightest notion of how Gerard looked. But I will remember him as an enthusiastic and kind man who seemed to always have a sparkle in his eyes, the way he wrote things.

Gerard helped me a lot when I asked him I wanted to redo his model of the Westland Whirlwind fighter and he (unasked) designed a new, much better nose for the plane. He only built his own designed models, the only models he made that were designed by others were when he was around 11 years old. His first self-published models were created digitally in the early 2000's. Gerard was 81 years old. 

Clear skies, you magnificent man. Thanks for all the models and your enthusiasm. I will keep you in my thoughts. 

Goeie reis, ouwe reus. 

--Jasper