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The Danbury Mint "Apollo 13"
Review by David Senechal

In January 2003, The Danbury Mint, better known for their line of sports collectibles, announced "Apollo 13", the first diecast scale model in a new series, "Milestones in Space Exploration". When complete, the collection will also include models of the Saturn V, Friendship 7, and Space Shuttle Columbia.

"Apollo 13" is a 1:50 replica of the spacecraft flown by James Lovell, Fred Haise, and John "Jack" Swigert on the planned third lunar landing, depicted prior to the inflight explosion that changed the mission to one of survival. Included are detachable Command and Service modules, as well as separate ascent and descent stages of the Lunar Module. Together, they fit atop a basic black base with a plaque describing the mission.

Retailing for $108 (plus shipping), its quite possible to mistake "Apollo 13" with similar toy versions released since the 1995 movie of the same title. Quality models of the same scene have typically been more expensive. For example, a wooden, less detailed model marketed by Daron currently retails for $180 or more.

According to The Danbury Mint, their "Apollo 13" model is constructed primarily of cold-cast resin and uses "spun metal" for details, making for a very substantial display. Its not clear as to what "spun metal" is (and a DM representative could offer no further insight), but it's fairly soft and bends easily so care when handling is in order. The DM model does have its shortcomings (as described below), but the overall impression is that of accuracy and quality.

To date, the DM Command/Service Module is perhaps the most accurate Block II model available in 1:48/1:50 scale. The detail on the Service Module is high, and the polished mirror finishing of the Command Module is striking. That said, errors are present. The high-gain antenna is rudimentary at best, EVA handles on the CSM are missing although their attach points are curiously present, and the SPS engine black/silver paint scheme is the reverse of the flight article.

The DM Lunar Module is reminescent of the Franklin Mint version released in 1994, in regard to its general weight, feel, and appearance. The insulation and paint patterns on the descent stage match more closely the Apollo 11 craft, LM-5, rather than LM-7 that flew on Apollo 13. (Due to the unfortunate events of the latter mission, reference photographs of the Apollo 13 LM are relatively scarce, possibly leading DM to use the more frequently seen LM-5.) It is still one of, if not the most accurate commercially produced models of the Lunar Module, regardless the mission.

Of course, there is room for improvement. The landing gear insulation pattern is a slightly off, but passes for acceptable. The one real shortcoming, albeit minor, is the overly-long wire that attaches the main leg strut to the secondary struts, causing the angle of the main gear to appear a bit distorted. This could be resolved by a modeler by simply shortening and reattaching the wire.

As for the ascent stage, the black/silver paint scheme is again closer to LM-5 (AS-11) than LM-7, the steerable S-band and rendezvous antennae were clearly made by the lowest bidder, and panel lines are missing.

On both the CSM and the LM, the protruding pegs that "dock" the various modules together look out of place when they're "undocked", but they are necessary due to the weight of the components. When assembled, the model is near museum quality.

Overall, The Danbury Mint' "Apollo 13" makes a high quality display right out of the box and for only $108, is an exceptional deal.

Apollo 13, shipping now, and the entire Milestones in Space Exploration collection can be ordered by calling The Danbury Mint at 1-800-243-4664.

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