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  Rendezvous with Jim McDivitt's 'other' Spider: A Restoration Diary

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Author Topic:   Rendezvous with Jim McDivitt's 'other' Spider: A Restoration Diary
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posted 04-29-2007 10:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LunarRover   Click Here to Email LunarRover     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rendezvous with Jim McDivitt's other Spider: A Restoration Diary

Choosing the names Gumdrop and Spider certainly showed the world that the astronauts of Apollo 9, Jim McDivitt, Dave Scott, and Rusty Schweickart were masters of naming spacecraft. And their ten day mission, flown March 3 - March 13, 1969, tested and proved just about everything else that America's space program needed for men to land, and to walk on the moon's surface, a short 18 weeks later.

Imagine the pressure, the pace, testing, evaluating, and proving the hardware during the first manned flight of the Grumman Lunar Module. Apollo 9 accomplished that and more, testing rendezvous procedures and hardware, docking the command and lunar modules. Rusty Schweickart's EVA tested the PLSS backpack which enabled Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to leave those first footprints. Quite a mission. And everything worked to perfection.

It is against this background, and with the perspective of what these men achieved, that I begin this restoration diary.

An Introduction

Many of the readers of this present journal I've either met personally, or know through the internet. Howdie. But for others, Andy Lagomarsino here, a retired professional musician whose hobbies include growing grapes and olives, winemaking... and restoring spacecraft contractor models. Some collectors and other space friends call me Doc. Lem, and I kinda like that.

Who knew when I purchased my first broken up Topping LM model years ago, the many marvelous adventures to follow because I was able to fix it up and make it look better. One thing has led to another, and now that I've been restoring these magnificent models for many years, something unexpected and wonderful has happened. As usual there are thanks aplenty along the way, from the great folk here at collectSPACE, to museum curators who took me backstage, to the many collectors from around the world who have commissioned restorations or trusted me to spruce up their personal models. The greatest bunch of folk, so many to now call close friends. What a blessing.

Yet, nothing really prepared me for the email I received about six weeks ago from Kim Poor of Novaspace. Kim, it would seem, had read my previous article here at collectSPACE, Magnificent Creations, on the restoration of a Topping lunar module model, and had a project in mind, if I'd care to handle it: "General Jim McDivitt has generously donated to our auction one of his personal LM models, Andy, but... well, it needs a bit of work...".

Thanks everyone, I am grateful and humbled. In the weeks to follow, I hope to take the readership here on a pleasant journey by sharing the thrill of victories and the agony of defeats in the restoration of this magnificent piece of spaceflight history.

Initial Assessment

Kim's initial email provided two scans of the model, which were sufficient to envision some of the requirements for the project he had in mind. Once we had talked more about time constraints, his and General McDivitt's goals for the model, and the like, it was shipped to me for an in depth hands-on evaluation. As can be seen in the scans below, several things are apparent:

Obviously the model first will need a thorough cleaning. Several metal parts, S-band antenna and rendezvous radar dishes in particular, are damaged, and will need repair/straightening. There is moderate fading/chipping to some of the black painted areas, and the ascent stage of the model has suffered significant discoloration in the area above the hatch.

This second view provides a closer look at the bent and damaged metal, as well as the discoloration.

In packing the model for shipment, Kim had the unfortunate experience of the rendezvous radar dish breaking. Part of the radar assembly remained attached to the model; the dish itself is visible in the plastic bag next to the model. On these smaller LM models, it has been my experience that many of the parts were cast with extremely weak metal. Kim and I were actually in the process of an instant message exchange, me having just mentioned the fragile nature of these parts to him, when Kim wrote back that the dish had just separated!

Fortunately from this experience it is easy to understand that it will be a 50/50 proposition as to whether or not the S-band antenna and bracket can be straightened sufficiently without breaking off.

One final problem can be discerned from this first batch of scans. Note the missing thruster quad pack to the rear, commander's side on the ascent stage. Small LM models like this example are quite scarce, as compared to the much larger Topping and Precise versions. Thus few readers would be aware that the missing part is less than 1/4" X 1/4" X 1/4"!

I went from "thrilled, happy, and proud" to arachnophobia (remember... Spider) in one gasp when I saw this! Especially since the missing piece was present in Kim's initial scan. Did I lose it? These thruster packs are obviously very critical to the appearance of a model, and are extremely hard to replicate. Fortunately the missing part was quickly located laying on the carpet back at Novaspace, so all ends happily. And Kim and I both agreed that as part of the restoration, all four of these thruster packs would be permanently attached to the model!

Author's Note

This thread will be updated in approximately two weeks with scans and commentary on the initial steps taken to restore the model. I've estimated the entire project will take 6-8 weeks (I work on models in my spare time) for completion.

Feel free to post any thoughts or questions to this thread, or to contact me directly. In either case however, please take into consideration that my family and farm need their love, too. So, I'm not always able to reply in the speediest of fashions.

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posted 04-30-2007 08:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bethpage02   Click Here to Email bethpage02     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good Luck with this project Doc !!!

If anyone can make this "Spider" shine once again its Doc Lem.

Andy restored our family's LM and we could not be happier. (see thread Magnificent Creations) it tells the story of OY-1 "Old Yeller" and how Doc gave her new life.

Joe Fitzpatrick
aka "Bethpage02"


Posts: 821
From: Sandpoint, ID, USA
Registered: Mar 2003

posted 04-30-2007 10:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dss65   Click Here to Email dss65     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No "Wipeout" here; it's in the best of hands. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you do with this, Andy.



Posts: 480
Registered: Mar 2002

posted 05-01-2007 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for STEVE SMITH   Click Here to Email STEVE SMITH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Surfer Joe, look at you go.

Godspeed Doc LEM!

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posted 05-14-2007 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LunarRover   Click Here to Email LunarRover     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Closer Encounter with a Spider, Day 15

A belated Happy Mother's Day for some of the gals out there. The last two weeks have been productive on the home front, and in the model shop. We've completed the bottling of the '06 vintage, and done the first, and hopefully only, spraying of the vines for this season. Organic farming can be challenging as our weather seems so different than it was just a few years ago. More heat and humidity....

My sincere thanks to those who have written me about this diary, either offering assistance, expressing interest, or just inquiring about projects of their own. A big hello to fellow cSer Pete, currently a professional Las Vegas musician... and former winery assistant. He wrote to say I might be his long lost brother. Pete, don't go there, there are RISKS...

Of course hello to the usual group of suspects rounded up by Casablanca's Prefect of Police here at collectSPACE. Don, Steve, Joe... thanks guys. The world is a better place with folk like you in it, despite obscure musical references employed here and there in your posts. I'm shocked, shocked...

Progress has been made on the model: A thorough, if preliminary, cleaning was the first step taken. This was heartening, and also allowed a more complete assessment of steps necessary to complete the project. Preliminary work on the discoloration present above the hatch has begun. There are now three coats of white over the original discoloration, some of which was removed successfully during the cleaning process:

Happily the highly frangible S-band antenna detached from the model and was straightened without incident. Reinforcement and build up of the weak joint between dish and bracket has begun, as is visible in this scan:

Also the docking target was straightened from it's former bent prone condition:

Following these steps, the majority of the metalwork was removed for repair and refinishing. Kim Poor accepted my recommendation that all the metalwork be refinished with compounds I use on larger LM model's metalwork. Although the end result will appear slightly brighter than that the model originally shipped with, we both concluded that a refinishing would be the best way to conceal, or effectively camouflage any repairs necessary to broken metalwork (S-band, rendezvous radar), as well as generally perk up the model.

Two of the thruster packs are still attached to the model at this point. Removal for refinishing will require some further work with a medium width x-acto knife.

As visible in the final scan for this update, flaws and fading in the original paint are quite apparent. In the weeks ahead I hope to straighten many of these ripples and worn areas, in the process adding some depth to the black and grey areas. The discolored area above the hatch will also be finish sanded, prior to the paint in this area being retouched.

Prior to the use of any materials I've employed on this model, a test was performed on an inconspicuous spot to verify that the paints and stains were appropriately colored, and more importantly, non-reactive. This is a very important step in any modeling or restoration involving valuable contractor models. Still, a test is no guarantee. About a year ago during a restoration I was performing, a Topping Gemini nose-cone began fizzing like an alka-seltzer in water when I applied clearcoat, despite the same spray being tested on my own example of this model. Fortunately that ended happily, as do most adventures with these 40 year old masterpieces. Nonetheless, one can't be to careful, and it is prudent to keep the potential for problems in mind when planning any work. Generally speaking, the less one does, the better, consistent with the goal for the finished project.

Looking forward to another update in about two weeks. Please keep those cards and letters coming.



Posts: 102
From: Niceville FL USA
Registered: Mar 2000

posted 05-25-2009 06:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for barnstormer   Click Here to Email barnstormer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Small LM models like this example are quite scarce, as compared to the much larger Topping and Precise versions.

Hi Rover; Beautiful job and results! With all your experience, do you have any idea how many of the small LMs were produced and what might be the ratio of large ones to small ones? A ball-park guess would be of interest. I had a heck of a time with not finding anything on Google or other searches (even here..)for the small ones.
Joe G.

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