Building LM-11: Apollo 16's Orion

Ricardo Salamé Páez

The Apollo 16 Mission:

Apollo 16 was the tenth manned mission of the Apollo space program, the fifth to land on the Moon and the first to land in the lunar highlands. The second "J missions," the extended lunar missions. It was crewed by Commander John Young, Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke and Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly. Launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:54 PM EST on April 16, 1972, the mission lasted 11 days, 1 hour, and 51 minutes, and concluded at 2:45 PM EST on April 27

John Young and Charles Duke spent 71 hours (just under three days) on the lunar surface, during which they conducted three extra-vehicular activities (EVA) or moonwalks, totaling 20 hours and 14 minutes. They drove the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), the second used on the Moon, 26.7 kilometers. On the surface, Young and Duke collected 95.8 kilograms (211 lb) of lunar samples for return to Earth, while Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly orbited in the Command/Service Module (CSM) nickname “Casper” above to perform observations. Mattingly spent 126 hours and 64 revolutions in lunar orbit. After Young and Duke rejoined Mattingly in lunar orbit, the crew released a sub-satellite from the Service Module (SM). During the return trip to Earth, Mattingly performed a one-hour spacewalk to retrieve several film cassettes from the exterior of the Service Module.

Apollo 16's landing spot in the highlands was chosen to allow the astronauts to gather geologically older lunar material than the samples obtained in the first four landings, which were in or near lunar maria. Samples from the Descartes Formation and the Cayley Formation disproved a hypothesis that the formations were volcanic in origin.

Apollo Lunar Module:

The Apollo Lunar Module (LM), originally designated the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), was the lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft built for the Apollo program by Grumman Aircraft to carry a crew of two from lunar orbit to the surface and back. Designed for lunar orbit rendezvous, it consisted of an ascent stage and descent stage, and was ferried to lunar orbit by its companion Command and Service Module (CSM), a separate spacecraft of approximately twice its mass, which also took the astronauts home to Earth. After completing its mission, the LM was discarded. It was capable of operation only in outer space; structurally and aerodynamically it was incapable of flight through the Earth's atmosphere. The Lunar Module was the first, and to date only, manned spacecraft to operate exclusively in the airless vacuum of space. Six such crafts successfully landed on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. The seventh spacecraft (LM-7) “Aquarius” provided propulsion and life support for the crew of Apollo 13 when their CSM was disabled by an oxygen tank explosion en route to the Moon.

The LM's development was plagued with problems which delayed its first unmanned flight by about ten months and its first manned flight by about three months. Despite this, the LM eventually became the most reliable component of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle, the only component never to suffer a failure that significantly impacted a mission.

Extended J-class missions

The Extended Lunar Modules (ELM) used on the final three "J-class missions", Apollo 15, 16 and 17, were significantly upgraded to allow for greater landing payload weights and longer lunar surface stay times. The descent engine power was improved by the addition of a 10-inch (250 mm) extension to the engine bell, and the descent fuel tanks were increased in size. A waste storage tank was added to the descent stage, with plumbing from the ascent stage. These upgrades allowed stay times of up to 75 hours on the Moon.

The Lunar Roving Vehicle was carried folded up outside Quad I of the LM descent stage and deployed by the astronauts after landing. This allowed them to explore large areas and return a greater variety of lunar samples.

In the Quad IV of the Decent Stage it was located the equipment for the lunar exploration was carried in the Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA), a drawer mounted on a hinged panel dropping out of the left hand forward compartment. Besides the astronaut's surface excavation tools and sample collection boxes, the MESA contained a television camera with a tripod; as the commander opened the MESA by pulling on a lanyard while descending the ladder, the camera was automatically activated to send the first pictures of the astronauts on the surface back to Earth. A United States flag for the astronauts to erect on the surface was carried in a container mounted on the ladder of each landing mission. The MESA for the J Series was modify to accommodate more batteries, lithium hydroxide canister for the Astronaut Portable Life Support Systems (PLSS), the LRV Color TV camera and other tools use for the astronauts in their mission.

Historical information for Apollo Eric Jones uncover the Apollo era in this living document Kipp Teague bring the images.

Modeling Reference

I based my Lunar Module in several works produced by excellent Modelers

LM 5 by David Weeks:
LM 6 John Sims I can't find the link to the pictures
LM7 Glenn Johnson
LM 10 Glenn Johnson
LM 12 Karl D. Dodenhoff

Then came Vincent Meens and Pete Malaguti and raised the bar with their work that all of you see in this forum.

One thing that I learned from Mike Mackowski and David Weeks, is that you must do your work of research when you prepare to make your model. And once that you think that you finish, you must do more, because something always is missing. And sometimes when you finish the missing link will surface:

But in these days everything is easier. The internet has the power to get the info, if you are willing to look for it.

Historical information for Apollo Eric Jones covers the Apollo era in this living document Kipp Teague brings the images.

Modeling References Sven Knudson's place is the Bible for the models, everything and I mean everything is in this web site. Mike Mackowski has great reference and clear all the obscure points of the real space modeling. SIM7 - Apollo Lunar Module is the one that you would like to use for a project like this. If you really want to know about modeling techniques, buy Matt Irvine's Space Spacecraft Modeling. It will give you great tips.

I will recommend to any real space modelers to joing the Yahoo group Over there you can chat with the most resourceful group of people. If you don't find something someone over there will help you.

Make your own reference with pictures, drawings etc.

The Kit

The Revell-Monogram 1/48 scale LEM and its 'First Lunar Landing' is the same kit produce in the mid-sixties one of the best mass-market plastic spacecraft models ever made. It models (somewhat inaccurately) an LM from an early mission, Apollo 11 or Apollo 12, and would need extensive modification to represent later missions as the J Series mission. There is no kit or aftermarket resign or PE to represent this type of missions in 1/48 scale, so my only option was to scratch build the parts to make an accurate representation of the LM 11.

The Descent Stage: None of the Quads for the Descent Stage are open so I have to cut the model and make the modifications to accommodate LTR deploy mechanism, the MESA, the ALSEP compartment, The LRV and cargo pallets.



QUAD II LRV Pallet and UV Camera


The original parts had upper outriggers with four apex pads. Those beautifully sculpted parts had to take the load of a full-weight LM at about 8 g's ultimate. The rings inboard of the pads are structural components of the Vent Cuffs, where outgassing from the blankets was diffused. The cuffs were not used on the J-LMs: It had to be sanded to take it to the right size.

The Mylar: I use several combinations of materials for the external insulation of the decent stage. Aluminium foil, Mylar and Mylar tape. The trick with them is to find the one that match the mission that you select to model. In generally all the LM look alike, but each has it own charm. To match the colours is a little tricky but not impossible. Mylar is the best option but you have to shop around for several brands to achieve different colours tones. Because the colour of the Mylar doesn’t match, I have to use the Tamiya and Gunze clears. I use Orange, Yellow and Red to achieve other tones of the banquets for the Descent Stage. I airbrushed them in aluminium foil, let it dry two days and then applied it to the craft. Use thin layers of the product until you achieve the desire tone.

The extra batteries compartment of the Lunar Module is not present in the Monogram model, so I had to replicate it to create that funny bump between Quad II and III. This is a detail that is not caught by many people.

Other Details of the Descent Stage:
The Monogram kit doesn’t have the radar but it had the heat deflector that protects the radar from the heat of the engine. The shape and the size of the kit part are wrong. The best solution to this was to make my own part and scratch build my own radar.

The ladder is too thick and it had the wrong shape, so I scratchbuilt a new one and added the side hook that the astronauts used for hanging the samples bags. All the legs were covered with a combination of yellow painted gold foil and orange Mylar. The same work was done to the foot pads. The porch was made of aluminum and plastic

The Cosmic Ray Detector Experiment

The radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) housing of the kit is completely wrong. There is no point to try to correct it so the safe bet is that you make your own.

The MESA: One of the biggest challenges to represent the J Series mission is the Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA). The data is almost not existent and there are several diagrams that contradict it shape. I based my in the only one that survives in the Cradle of Aviation Museum in East Garden City, New York on Long Island. I was lucky in of that one of my buddies had a personal encounter with it and shares some light. Thanks Karl Dodenhoff !!! .

Making the pallets took me a while because the documentation is very hard to find and the pictures that you get are not as sharp as you want.

The Ascent Stage:
To replicate the correct shape and wrinkles of the upper part of the LM I have to look for some material that will bond and adapt to the LM structure. The only issue is that kit is made of solid plastic and I was forced to cut all the unnecessary plastic skin to replace it with heavy aluminum foil. I used my reliable Dremel in the borders until I was left with the skeleton of the spacecraft. Then with a set of hand files I corrected the shape and left in offset space to cover the LM with heavy aluminium.

I used different types of foil to cover the LM Ascent Stage. I covered the LM pane by panel, but first I painted the structure with gloss black and then with Alclad Aluminum color. Before I covered the LM I painted each panel with it's correct color.

The LM colours: In the dark days everybody said the LM was silver, only Karl and myself fought against it. This was not clear until Mike set it straight and cast it in stone in his SIM 7 Book. Guess who gets the credits. For my LMs I used the following grey colors: Model Master Enamel and Acrylic, Gloss Gull Gray FS 16440 and Light Ghost Gray, I combined them with a little bit of Pale Green FS 34227. I am not being able to match a pantone card against the LM 9 in the Kennedy Space Canter. So I have to depend on photos. Grumman thermal engineers were approaching the final "look" of the Ascent Stage. Most of the sulfuric acid anodized ("silver") 2024 clad aluminum shield panels were now chromic acid anodized 4 mil 5056 H191 aluminum. The slight amount of magnesium in that alloy gave the oxide coating a "beigish-with a hint of green". That why le all LM except LM3 Spider had that greenish color. For colour information go to Sven's site and look for this document Coatings and Finishes for LM-10 through LM-14 or go to Lunar Module Coatings Page by Paul Fjeld

The LM 11 suffered a failure in some of the areas of the central Ascent Stage this is recollected in the ALSJ and astronaut Charlie Duke document this in the following images:,, and

For the black panels in the Ascent and Descent Stages I used a sheet of bond paper airbrushed with flat black. After it dried I apply Humbrol matte coat. In the real LM this material was Inconel #600 foil painted with Pyromark Black. The paint was baked; the small flaws were sprayed black, leaving dark blotches. See the pictures of LM 11 in the Grumman plant The best material that I used in my previous LMs was the black envelop that came with the Kodark and Ilford photolab paper, but that material is not available any more to me. My old days in my amateur photolab are over; long time ago in a far and far away country. My lab was replaced by Lightroom and Photoshop.

The LM interior: There is no kit available in 1/48 scale to do the interior of the LM. So the technique is the same, do it by yourself with whatever material you can find. I find a good diagram of the cockpit and size it to the correct size. This is not easy and requires a lot of trial an error. After a few attempts I got the correct size mounted first on paper in the cabin then and I print the cockpit instrument in a clear plastic cellulose acetate. This was the base for start to build all the instruments inside of the font cabin.

For the LM windows I use Ultimate LM Decal Set by Space Model Systems this are the best in the market. Start with the windows.

All the antennas are were throwing in the spare part box. There are inaccurate and to tick.

The model is not finish. I have the LRV the ALSEP instrument the figures and the base almost ready. The major issue in this project is the suspension of the LRV that has been a little challenge in this scale.

Apollo 16 LM 11 “Orion”

J Series Mission