Men Into Space

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Well-Known Member
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Oct 26, 2009
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Brigham City, UT
"Men Into Space" was a TV series back in the 1959-1960 time frame. The show was a sci-fi about what manned space flight would be like in the near future and tried to be as realistic as possible on a limited budget and using real scientific principles. Some of the special effects are wanting and others are not too bad considering that this was filmed nearly 60 years ago, long before computer animation came into being. Unfortunately, many of the predictions have still yet to come to pass. One of the filming techniques was take a real rocket film footage and use it in the show as a substitute for the proposed rocket taking off. Here is a picture of Col. Ed McCauley holding a modified Atlas with the manned spaceship on top.

I have some old Star Trek comic books from the 1970s, and one of them has a Star Trek timeline. It starts with Sputnik and works its way up to the original series.

It was amazingly accurate, with very close dates for the moon landing, space shuttle, ISS, etc. But then the next step was a moon base by the year 2000 (I think), a Mars landing by 2005 or something like that. So, it becomes very obvious that the USA sort of abandoned the space program around the turn of the century in real life. We are only now talking about a potential moon base and Mars flight.
Interestingly enough, their Atlas missile had some upper staging that is nothing like the real original Atlas. The nice thing about these pictures is that they give some size relationship of the spaceship to the Atlas rocket.

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It just so happens that Fantastic Plastic makes a 1:48 scale of the Men Into Space spaceship (They call Rocketship Type 1). The base of their model is about 3.1 inches in diameter. If I assume that this diameter is perfectly matched with the Atlas rocket 10 foot (120") diameter, I get a different scale of 1:38. Allen Ury at Fantastic Plastic that they based their scale off of screen shots and basing the height of a man as 6 feet.

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So, I got the Men Into Space rocket ship model this past summer.

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I then needed to decide what to do for the Atlas model. At first I thought of making an Atlas model from scratch to have a 3.1" diameter. Rocketguy101, who has an excellent thread on TRF for making an Atlas from scratch, was nice enough to send me all his plans. I want to tell him "thank you" for this. Ultimately, I chickened out from building from scratch and instead bought the 1:35 scale Estes Atlas on e-bay. The Estes Atlas has about a 3.43" diameter, which is a little bit larger than the Fantastic Plastic model.
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In the process of making new clear plastic fins I found that I had to re-teach myself how to do this. I bought the 3/32" thick plastic a few years ago from Ridout Plastics Co., Inc., San Diego, CA. It has a blue film on both sides. I found that peeling off the blue film on both sides and then cutting with a scroll saw is a bad idea. The plastic can chip if the scroll saw is going to slow or melt if the saw is going to fast. Leaving the blue film on one side works great with the scroll saw on about 1/4 speed. In addition the blue film works great for marking the pattern to be cut with a Sharpie magic market.


I'm now on my way to building a clear plastic fin mount for the Atlas.

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Bob, are you 100% convinced you want to use the plug in clear fins? I'd really recommend doing through the wall polycarbonate 1/16" triangluar fin method I used on mine, it's lighter, didn't need any nose weight, and are very flexible for landing....I simply slotted the lower section/skirt and used a flexible clear glue to hold them in place...3/32" is way overkill in this size. I use 1/16" in my 10" diameter 6# foam version....

Bob, are you 100% convinced you want to use the plug in clear fins? I'd really recommend doing through the wall polycarbonate 1/16" triangluar fin method I used on mine, it's lighter, didn't need any nose weight, and are very flexible for landing....I simply slotted the lower section/skirt and used a flexible clear glue to hold them in place...3/32" is way overkill in this size. I use 1/16" in my 10" diameter 6# foam version....


Frank, that is impressive using only 1/16" thick plastic on a 10" diameter project. You really know how to keep the weight down. I have used this 3/32" thick plastic fin before on the Estes Atlas Mercury as shown in the Rocket Reviews article and it worked fine. That model did need a little bit of forward lead weight, but that model was powered by a cluster of 3 black powder D12's in the aft end, which is 2 more motors than what the kit was originally designed for. The 2 extra D-motors weighed a lot more than the extra 1/32" of clear plastic. This time I am making the small fin mount struts from basswood, which I found in my inventory. That stuff if pretty light. Even though, I have the option to put motors in the Atlas outboard skirt, I will probably use a composite 24 mm motor for at least the first flight. (I am thinking about putting wires for the outboards for a possible air-start.)
The clear fin unit turned out pretty good. This is the second time that I have made such a unit. I have installed wires for the outboard motors just in case I ever want to try electronic ignition. This remains to be seen. I may never use the outboard motors on this model at all.

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After setting up the model for clear plastic fins the rest of the construction pretty much follows the original Estes Atlas/Mercury plans. The Estes plans are well written and easy to follow. Attached are some photo's of the current progress. I replaced the Estes 1/8" diameter soda launch lug with something larger. With such fantastic detail with the Estes plastics parts for this model it seems inconsistent to have such some launch lugs for such a larger model. Although the photo's show the external LOX line, it has not been glued in place, yet, because it will be removed for painting.

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I thought of cutting the transition section that comes with the original Estes kit, but decided against doing this. So, I drew a crude sketch and after working with the Sandman at Roachwerks, Gordon came up with a plan for the new transition section and made a new drawing. The professional looking drawing is Gordon's.

View attachment MIS trans 2.pdf

View attachment MIS transition.pdf
The Convair X-11 was an early test program for the Atlas missile in 1957. The Atlas had the 2 outer boosters locked into position and the sustainer engine was not present. The paint scheme had a black and white roll pattern on the upper body and the booster shrouds were painted red. This paint scheme was adopted for the Atlas model used in the Men Into Space TV series as shown in Posts #1 and #3.

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I used tamiya tape masked for white, silver and red painting separately. I did not paint on top of paint. The silver was Rustoleum Metallic Finish aluminum. The white was Rustoleum Paint + Primer 2X semi-gloss white. The red was Krylon Dual Superbond paint + primer gloss banner red. I still have the black pattern to do.

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Looks good. REAL Good.

I agree, I like that color scheme.

The masking turned out good. There is no need for a touch-up. I think that I will use self-adhesive monokote for the black roll pattern. I glued the two shells of the Men Into Space rocket ship with super-glue gel and epoxied the inside and added the nose cone. I decided to drill a center hole in the base and epoxied in a T-nut. This way I can use a bolt or all-thread to attach the rocket ship to the transition section.

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The plastic parts for the rocketship are not really inter-locking and tend to lay on top of each other as the epoxy sets. I found that the fins did not quite fit in the slots and so I had to dry-fit each one and then cut each slot with Xacto knives, file, and sandpaper until there was a good fit. Also, since the fins hang out over the base, I had to cut slots in the wood transition section with a Dremel tool in order to get the Rocketship to mate with the section.

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I got some advice from Allen Ury at Fantastic Plastics as follows:

Hi, Bob:

Virtually all resin kits require some kind of seam filling. (So do most plastic kits!) My recommended putty is two-part Aves Epoxy-Paste. You mix together a bit of each part, spread it with a toothpick, then remove the excess with acetone (nail polish remover) on a Q-tip. It hardens overnight and sands easily. Here's where you can get it:

Happy Holidays!

Allen B. Ury
Fantastic Plastic Models

I got the Aves Epoxy and followed Allen's advice. It helped, but some of the seams are still not perfect. I've tried sanding with 400 grit, filling with Bondo, and painting. That seems to help, but I think I will need to try this a few more times. Weather here has turned very cold, so it may be awhile before I do this again. The hiding power of Rustoleum Metallic Finish Aluminum appears to be very good, so only light coats are needed. It seems to me after a few light coats the surface imperfections start to disappear with the Aluminum paint. I will have to try again when the weather is warmer.

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I cut a small disk from 1/8" thick model aircraft plywood. Currently, I am attaching the transition section with an eye bolt through the disk into the rocket ship. I know eye bolts have there downside. I could epoxy a short section of wooden dowel to the disk and epoxy an eye screw to that later. There is masking tape on the transition section, because I may paint some more.

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I epoxied in the nozzles and then found that there was an interference with the mating transition section. Cutting in 4 notches into the wooden transition section with a Dremel tool solved the problem. Attaching the nozzles is not absolutely necessary, because they cannot be seen in the flight configuration.

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One qualitative way to check the scale on this Men-Into-Space model is to take the astronaut that comes with the "Men Into Space" space ship and place it next to the Estes Mercury space capsule. To me the astronaut looks like the right scale for the Mercury capsule.

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You can find virtually all of the "Men Into Space" episodes on YouTube.- at least you could the last time I looked a couple of months ago.
I finally launched the Men Into Space yesterday on an Aerotech single-use F32-4T. The model went up very fast and fairly straight up at first, but then arced over. The time delay seem to last forever, but finally opened about 100 feet above the ground. The main body had a large silver mylar chute that opened quickly. One clear plastic fin broke, but these are held in place with a screw and can be replaced. The chute did not open on the Men Into Space capsule, but that capsule is fairly strong. On fin broke off, but can be glued back on. Another fin cracked, but can be repaired.

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