Io Saturnalia!

The new left-hand view from my couch as of yesterday

Note: You can click any of the pictures in this article to see a 1920×1080 version.

(“Io Saturnalia!”- the “io” pronounced “yo” – was the traditional greeting during Saturnalia, the late December Roman festival that Mary Beard discusses here.)

I’ve been waiting for more than a year to see if Bandai in Japan might re-issue their gorgeous 1:144 Saturn V model, which is almost three feet long, in time for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, but now that we’re just a few weeks away, it doesn’t appear they’re going to. Prices for the limited quantities of used models and really limited remaining quantities of new ones are not that far apart, and I’m thinking they may rise sharply as 20 July looms, so I got a new one from Japan a few weeks ago – cost approximately a bundle. I haven’t had a Saturn V model since the age of nine, when I built Revell’s kit as the Apollo missions progressed before me. This one, with die-cast metal engines and so precisely and carefully crafted and painted, is considerably nicer.

Following my love of things of high quality, I started thinking about the best way to display the model. First, I found a set of remote control mini LED spotlights in the cool white spectrum to approximate the xenon arc searchlights used at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39. The remote allows brightness control in 10% increments, and it’s now programmed onto my Logitech Harmony One, so I still have just one remote for everything.

Once I had the model in hand, I decided on dimensions for its case, and commissioned Specialty Plastics in Ohio [2024 update: I removed the link because they’re no longer in business] to build a quite splendid mirror-backed acrylic display case, 36″ wide x 14″ deep x 10″ high.

Then I started looking around for an appropriate table to put the case on. As I browsed, I halfheartedly saved three or four okay-but-not-great designs, but was then delighted to find this low-slung coffee table with a strong 1950s/1960s vibe whose design fits nicely with the model and its case. The name of the design wasn’t specified on Amazon, but the box it came in said it’s called Manhattan Age. Perfect.

The coffee table arrived last week, so I had that assembled and waiting. When FedEx arrived with the display case yesterday, I was rather busy making Parker House rolls, a double recipe of Comfort Diner meatloaf, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, butter-braised carrots, and crème brûlée for dinner guests coming over last night, but I forgot about all that stuff for an hour or so and set everything up.

The final and quite satisfying result is pictured here.

S-IVB third stage, Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter, Command and Service Module, and launch escape tower, with recovery helicopter in foreground

S-II second stage

S-IC first stage with CSM and Lunar Module in foreground


The business end

From above the case

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4 thoughts on “Io Saturnalia!

  1. Barrie M says:

    Well, you’ve certainly set the bar for Saturn V models quite high there! My own 1/144 Saturn V dates back to Xmas 1969 I think. It is the British ‘Airfix’ version. Airfix were fairly inexpensive and there’s less detail, particularly on the aft bulkheads of the stages, but it’s not a bad model. Mine has been securely stored away for quite a while but maybe July 2019 would be a good time to put her on display again??? Aged 50, I would not be surprised if a little embrittlement has set in.

    • lalmon says:

      Yes, I say now’s the time to dust that Airfix off. (Carefully!)

      I freely admit that I spent way too much money on this, and some may think I’m a chowderhead, perhaps correctly, but hey, Apollo has been one of my chief interests for fifty years and that interest only seems to grow over time. Plus, I became debt-free last month, so why the hell not? It sure makes me smile.

  2. Barrie M says:

    I pulled the Saturn V out of storage; needs a little maintenance, the fins on the first stage have all detached. Thinking about what to stand next it for purpose of scaling (and remember that I’m a Brit), I’ve found a toy London bus (the classic red bus with an upper deck) which is close enough to 1/144 to make no difference, and it makes for interesting comparisons;

    • The bus is a little less high than the F1 engines
    • The bus would go inside the first stage (long axis along the diameter) with good space to spare
    • A tunnel, as high as the first stage is wide, would allow two London buses, (one atop the other) to drive through it, or, maybe 3 buses side by side.

    Even just standing the bus by the first stage alone (let alone the whole stack) is quite a thing. I’ll get a picture of it.

    I have visited both KSC and the Marshall Centre and seen the Saturn V’s there, but appreciating their size is never easy to do. I also got to go inside the VAB back in 1972 when tourists to KSC could do that. I think that tourist access stopped because of safety issues when the Shuttle SRB’s were introduced. Even without the SRB’s, I guess that security concerns stops tourist access now?

    • lalmon says:

      A Routemaster is a fun idea, and probably more practical than my idea of a 1:144 Olympic size swimming pool, and far more practical than a 1:144 scale model of Wales. There are two Navy divers in the recovery diorama included with the Bandai, each a little over a centimetre.

      I first visited KSC many years ago (maybe 1987), when the Saturn was still outside – very sad, with visible corrosion and bird nests. I was much happier when I returned a decade later, about a year after it got its own enclosure in 1996.

      On that second visit, I also had the pleasure of witnessing from just outside the gates the launch of a communications satellite that same night after I saw on the 11pm news there was to be a launch at 1 or 2am. I was staying in Orlando, maybe an hour’s drive away, but it sounded like fun and so it was. Checking a “1997 in Spaceflight” article just now for comm satellite launches at that time of the morning, it looks like it must have been the Atlas IIA launch of the Tempo 2 satellite from LC-36A on 8 March 1997.

      I’m now planning a winter trip to Houston. After hearing the JSC “Houston, We Have a Podcast” episode 96 about the US$5M restoration of MOCR 2 and the visitor gallery and their plan to meticulously recreate exactly what the place was like during landing (and other key points), I think I have to go see. A side trip for Austin food is likely.

      The pictures I took on the second KSC visit were strictly analog, but I scanned a dozen or so at the time to put on my first web site that I had started a couple years previously in 1995, when things like personal web sites and scanners were still a bit exotic. If I recall correctly, I waited until the price of flatbed scanners dropped under US$500 before I created the site, which even then was The Finley Quality Network – listed in the Point/Lycos “Top 5% of All Web Sites” – but without the more appropriate address it has now.

      (“Point? Lycos? Whodem?”)

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