|August 19, 2021
— You can now take the controls of a historic NASA spacecraft — literally.
A team of Hollywood prop and visual artists are offering replicas of the Apollo command module control panel. The museum-quality reproduction features every switch, knob and indicator that was used on board the first three missions to land astronauts on the moon and to bring the Apollo 13 crew safely back to Earth.
"It is here where the impossible becomes possible," team leader Mark Lasoff, an Academy Award-winning artist whose credits include the 1995 feature film "Apollo 13," wrote about the control panel. "It is here where humans and machines interface. It is here where every vital operation, including navigation, propulsion, communication and life support is calculated, calibrated and controlled intricately."
"It is both an engineering feat and a work of art," Lasoff wrote of the flight deck.
The Apollo command module was the gumdrop-shaped capsule that launched astronauts atop Saturn rockets and returned to an ocean splashdown at the end of their missions. The control panel spanned the length of the crew members' seats.
Lasoff's personal desire for a replica control panel dates back almost as long ago as the Apollo missions themselves.
"I have wanted to build this control panel since I was ten years old. I have thought about it countless times in my life," he said. "And finally, one day, about two years ago, I began this journey."
Measuring an expansive 82 inches wide, 33 inches tall, and 7 inches deep (208 by 84 by 18 cm), the replica control panel was designed using the original blueprints for the NASA spacecraft. Lasoff and his team also used 3D scans of the Apollo 11 command module produced by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum to verify their details.
The replica panels will be built and assembled using 14 separate die-cast metal molds and CNC-machined acrylic plates, which will then be painted, laser etched with text and outfitted with LED backlighting to illuminate the panel, just like the original. Lasoff on Wednesday (Aug. 18) revealed the first laser-cut panel section in an update to the project on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website.
"In my entire thirty-year career, I can honestly say this is an extremely impressive creation. The detail is amazing. The two years of modeling it really paid off," Lasoff wrote. "The next step is to get the left and right panels cut, which could happen next week. Then we need to cut the upper acrylic panels."
The Kickstarter campaign is offering half- and full-scale replicas in plastic, metal and acrylic versions.
At 36 inches wide (91 cm), the half-scale, injection-molded plastic illuminated model costs $295. The full-scale plastic and acrylic edition is available for $695. The full-scale metal edition is $1,200.
Update: Due to manufacturing changes, the half-scale plastic injection-molded model and the plastic full-scale edition are no longer available and the price for the full-scale metal control panel has increased to $3,900.
The crowdfunding campaign is also offering high-resolution digital posters for pledges of $10 and a full set of files to 3D print the control panel yourself for $100.
Lasoff and his team are seeking to raise $148,000 for the project to go forward. As of Thursday (Aug. 19), about half way into its two-month run, the campaign has attracted 66 backers pledging more than $40,000, or about 30 percent of the total needed. The project closes to new backers on Sept. 21.
If the campaign is funded, it will not only outfit enthusiasts' homes and offices with replica control panels, but extend the displays into public venues as well.
"If this campaign meets its goal, we will donate 20 complete panels to educational institutions and museums to inspire new generations to embrace science and technology," wrote Lasoff.
|You can now pledge for your own museum-quality, full-scale replica of the Apollo command module control panel to hang on your home or office wall. (The Other Real) The replica Apollo command module control panel features every switch, knob and indicator as the original, based on the blueprints for and 3D scans of the historic NASA spacecraft. (The Other Real) Production of the full-scale replica Apollo command module control panels has begun with the first laser-cut section. (The Other Real)