It happened over half of my lifetime ago: the first Handshake in Space... While it had great international significance, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (as it was officially known in the US... in the USSR it was known as the Soyuz-Apollo Test Project: a way of saving face on both sides, I suppose) has a special significance for me: it's the only space launch I've attended in person... and it was awe inspiring, especially to a naive teenage farm boy from central Texas. I think I have a charmed life, because I somehow managed to finagle my way into watching the launch from the VIP site next to the VAB. This was after watching the Soyuz launch earlier that morning (July 15, 1975, for those of you too young to remember) from the NASA press site in Cocoa Beach... I had come equipped with a cheap Sears 35mm SLR and a 300mm lens with a 3X converter, so the launch tower filled my field of view. I jammed my tripod into the mud left by the morning's thunderstorms and had a clear view... until the moment of ignition, when some inconsiderate clod stepped in front of me. It was rather eerie to see the engines light up and the rocket start to climb in silence (other than the 'oohs' and 'aaahs' of the spectators). We were three miles away, so it took fifteen seconds for the sound to reach us. By that time the rocket had cleared the tower. Then the sound pummeled us: it was a brute, physical force that beat on our chests, shook the ground, bounced off of the VAB behind us, and hit us from behind... it was exhilarating! We watched the rocket climb, pierce some thin clouds, shed its first stage... and then the back of my camera flew open. Fortunately, most of the exposures of the launch were wound tightly enough to avoid being fogged, but I lost the staging. Of course, I have since lost the original slides and only have three blurry 5x7 prints that I had had made at a Walgreens twenty years ago... but I'll never forget the trip: ask me about it sometime.
But I digress... Marco's Miniatures has released a 1/48 scale kit of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project to commemorate this event. I received it via UPS four weeks after ordering it from Four Star Collectibles. Now, you might think the $89 price tag (total with shipping) is a bit steep... especially for a kit that you have no idea about the quality of the parts, accuracy, etc. So I'll give you an overview of the kit, my impressions, show some photos, and let you make your own decision. (My decision was easy: It's a space kit... I always buy space kits.)
There aren't any interior parts or any windows, for that matter. If you want any, you're on your own. But since the windows are so small, you won't be able to see much interior anyway... so I plan on just painting mine over with the standard 'Desktop Model Canopy' light blue.
The instructions are very easy to follow, with the text calling out the parts by number and referring to exploded diagrams. They also advise that scrap styrene be used as seam reinforcements for the vacuformed parts. Construction is broken down into major sections: the Apollo CSM, the docking module, and the Soyuz. A list of references and a painting guide finish off the instruction sheets. The painting guide may be a little confusing, so you'll probably want to refer to your sources for the correct schemes. I get the feeling that the paint scheme in the instructions is based on the museum display vehicles, rather than the actual flight vehicles...
If you've ever seen any photos of the Soyuz, you know it's just bristling with all sorts of antennae. These are represented by the photoetched parts. There are two trees of these parts. One of these trees contains the frames for the Soyuz solar panels. The other contains the Soyuz, Apollo, and docking module antennae and docking targets. Antenna masts, actuating rods, etc. are to be made by the modeler using the tubing and rod. Templates are provided so that the modeler just lays the tubing or rod over the drawing and cuts the piece to the indicated length: no measuring required. I hope the templates are correct...
The solar panels should look pretty cool, but I'll bet they'll be a bear to assemble. The frames consist of the aforementioned photoetched metal, while the panels themselves are to be cut from the transparent blue plastic (again, according to templates). The blue panels are glued to the frames, and a decal is applied over the panels to provide some detail. Personally, I've always liked diffraction grating material to use for solar panels... but what do I know?
There are US flag and UNITED STATES decals for the Apollo and Soviet flag and CCCP decals for the Soyuz. The instructions give alternate placements for the Soyuz decals, so again, you'll want to check the photos of the actual mission for the correct markings.
The multi-part stand includes a nameplate and yokes to hold the Apollo-Soyuz combination in the docking configuration, much like the display in the National Air and Space Museum. The base and nameplate holder are very thick vacuformed styrene, while the yokes are resin. It should provide a very sturdy foundation for the completed kit. The 3-mil thick aluminum nameplate marks the twentieth anniversary of the flight.