Over the years I've found that there are, what I consider, six different types:
The lucites that I consider 'official' are the ones made by/for NASA. These lucites are vintage; they were made shortly after the flight to present to NASA, government and contractor personnel and, in my opinion, have the best provenance.
- 'Official' NASA lucites made for/by NASA, usually by the spacecraft contractor (for example, the Gemini heat shield lucites were made by McDonnell Aircraft, the prime contractor for the Gemini spacecraft);
- Lucites made by individuals who worked for one of the spacecraft contractors using artifacts that they recovered for themselves;
- Lucites made by collectors/dealers using artifacts they purchased/received;
- Lucites made by a non-aerospace company (an example of this type of lucite are the Skylab 'pyramid' shaped lucites made by a company called Out of This World);
- Lucites made by museums or non-profit organizations such as the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Kansas Cosmosphere and
- Lucites made for an astronaut using material from their personal collection (such as the Apollo 17 Kapton lucites made for the Cernan Corporation).
That being said, I also believe that lucites made for museums that restored spacecraft (for example the Kansas Cosmosphere) and organizations that receive artifacts from astronauts (the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation) also have impeccable provenance.
And let me make it clear that I'm not saying that lucites made by someone other than NASA, museums or aerospace-related organizations are suspect; I'm simply saying that if I had to rate provenance on a scale of 1-10 I would give those sources a 10.
Regarding Gemini lucites: I've found that there are two basic 'official' versions:
I've also seen three versions of the Gemini spacecraft shaped lucites; one with the lucite, representing just the manned section of the Gemini spacecraft mounted on a polished wooden base without a patch embedded in the base; one with the lucite, representing just the manned section of the Gemini spacecraft, mounted on a polished wooden base with a vintage mission patch embedded in the base, and one with the lucite shaped like the entire Gemini spacecraft, including the retro module and equipment module (I've only seen one of this style).
- one type has the artifact embedded in a cylinder with the mission name and dates engraved on the bottom and the other has the artifact embedded in a lucite shaped like the Gemini spacecraft. There are variations of these two types, however. There are three versions of the cylindrical lucites that I've seen (there may be others, but I've seen only three);
- one with just the mission name and mission dates engraved in black, one with the astronaut's names, mission name and mission dates engraved in black and one with the mission name and mission dates engraved in white.
Other than the lucites containing heat shield material I haven't seen any other 'official' lucites for the Gemini missions, and I haven't seen any collector/dealer or museum versions with Gemini artifacts either, but I have seen a couple of lucites made by individuals who worked on the Gemini program.
Regarding Apollo artifact lucites: other than the one that is in my collection in the shape of the command module, the only 'official' lucites that I've seen are the 'short' cylinder (or 'hockey puck') lucite used for pieces of Kapton or ablator plugs, 'tall' cylinders with a section of heat shield and 'short' cylinders with a section of heatshield. There are also two different diameter 'tall' cylinders depending on whether the artifact is a section of heat shield or a heat shield plug (these are threaded ablator plugs with a metallic bottom used to cover the bolts that secure the heat shield to the primary structure of the Command Module).
Other than an Apollo 13 lucite that contains a vial of heat shield particles and has the mission name, mission dates and a description of what's in the vial engraved in white all of the Apollo lucites that I've seen are engraved in black.
I've also seen two different versions of the Apollo 10 heat shield lucite; one with the names of the astronauts, mission name and mission dates and one with just the mission name and mission dates.
I believe that all of the other Apollo heat shield lucites have the astronauts names, mission name and mission dates engraved on the bottom, and all of the heat shield plug lucites only have the mission name and mission dates engraved on the bottom. In addition to the lucites containing heat shield material and heat shield plugs I've seen 'official' lucites with Kapton material, ablator plugs, a section of wiring from the LM (from Apollo 10 and Apollo 15) and a timer knob (from Apollo 13).
I haven't seen any 'official' lucites containing heat shield material for Apollo 12, 14, 15 and 17, though they may exist.
One more thing: I have seen heat shield and Kapton material lucites made by collectors/dealers for all of the manned Apollo missions, and they look very similar to the 'official' versions. In most cases the lettering is slightly different than the 'official' versions, and in at least one case the order of the astronauts names engraved on the bottom of the lucite is different from the 'official' version. These lucites look so much like the 'official' versions that if a collector doesn't know exactly what to look for they may think that it is an 'official' one.
I hope that this post helps fellow collectors who collect lucites with flown artifacts. I'm sure that there is additional information that other members of collectSPACE can add and I look forward to their comments.
Update: After posting the above message I thought of some additional information.
1. There's a seventh category of lucites with space flown material - lucites made by a contractor for presentation to it's employees. For example, there's a 'diamond' shaped lucite with a small round section of coldplate flown on Apollo 8 made by the contractor who supplied the coldplates used in the CM . I don't believe that it was made for NASA but was made to give to employees who worked on the program.
2. There are lucites shaped like the Apollo CM that contain Kapton and/or heat shield sections that are flat on one side. I've seen two different versions of these lucites; one with a metallic plate with mission information facing the front of the lucite, and one with a metallic plate with mission information facing the back of the lucite. These were made for the CM prime contractor, North American Aviation/Rockwell. I don't know if Rockwell had these made for NASA or if Rockwell made them for their own use.
3. There are also rectangular shaped lucites containing flown Apollo heat shield material. I've seen these lucites for Apollo 4, 6 and 7. These were made for NAA/Rockwell and again, they may have been made for their own use.
As time permits I will post photos and dimensions of several of these lucites, and I encourage other members to do the same.
Editor's note: This discussion was split off another thread.