Moebius 1/144 Discovery Spacecraft: Part 1

Box art from Moebius 1/44 scale Discovery kit

This is the large styrene model of the iconic Discovery spacecraft from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. And when I say large, I mean large—assembled, it’s going to be 42 inches long, which will necessitate the hanging of a whole new shelf chez Oikofuge. To get a sense of its weird proportions, take a look at the “real” thing in profile, in a still from the film:

Discovery spacecraft from 2001: A Space Odyssey

To keep the kit rigid, Moebius have provided it with a steel spine, which runs from the centre engine bell at rear to the back of the command sphere at front. It consists of two hollow steel tubes, connected by a steel sleeve concealed inside the antenna module, halfway along the length of the spacecraft. That narrow tube running the whole length of the model is going to be important for what I’m planning for this kit, because I want to add some aftermarket detail (cockpit and pod bay) to the front of the model, and also want to add (quite a lot of) lighting.

So I need a place to put the batteries. The command sphere is going to be pretty full of aftermarket detail and wires by the time I’ve finished with it, but the rear propulsion unit contains a lot of empty space. Here it is, partly assembled, showing the run of the rear steel rod.

Moebius Discovery engine compartment rod
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To turn this into a battery compartment I need a removable lid, so I modified the upper kit part so that I can pop it on and off.

Moebius Discovery engine compartment mods to make battery bay lid
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I’ve extended the locating holes in the concealed side and rear flanges into slots, so that my lid can slide in and out, and I’ve removed a front flange which would otherwise foul the tapered front section of the propulsion unit. Here’s the assembled unit:

Moebius Discovery engine compartment battery lid in place
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Before going any further with modifications, I needed to convince myself I actually could run a pair of wires along the hollow steel spine of the kit, from back to front. And, with a bit of effort and some mineral oil, I managed to screw a twisted pair all the way through both metal tubes. Here they are with a battery pack and test light connected:

Successful test of wiring run through Moebius Discovery spinal rod 1
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And here are the steel tubes assembled end-to-end, demonstrating the length of the kit:

Successful test of wiring run through Moebius Discovery spinal rod 2
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With that option confirmed, I next planned to reduce the length of the rear steel tube so that it terminated inside my battery bay, rather than traversing it. It would, however, need some sort of support structure within the bay, to replace its original anchorage at the back. Here’s my solution to that problem, knocked together from brass rod and styrene. It’s being held in place by the steel tube while the glue dries.

Moebius Discovery engine compartment rod support structure
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Then I needed to measure off how much tubing to remove. I dry assembled the rear engine bell on to the steel tube, and marked off the length at the rear of my support structure:

Marking up cut point for Moebius Discovery spinal rod
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On the principle of measuring twice and cutting once, I also assembled the central cores of the four rear cargo pods, and threaded them on to the rear steel tube, ensuring that enough tube protruded to engage with the central sleeve. Then I pulled my wires back far enough to be out of harm’s way, and Dremelled 1¾ inches off my steel tube. Here’s the post-trimming tubing in position, showing that it both engages with the steel sleeve at the front, and allows my wires to enter the battery bay at rear:

Test of length of Moebius Discovery spinal rod, once trimmed
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There’s room inside for two AA 3V switched boxes, one to supply light to the engines, and one for the command sphere. In due course I’ll glue down a couple of electrical connector blocks in the rear space.

Moebius Discovery engine compartment converted to battery bay
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To get power into the command sphere itself requires only one hole to be drilled, in the kit part that forms the rear of the sphere. I made the hole just large enough to admit the wires, while still leaving enough plastic to form a stop for the steel tube.

Moebius Discovery command sphere drilled for wiring
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At the rear, the original hole for the steel tube gives access to the central engine bell. For the two side units, I drilled holes through the original supporting stubs.

Rear of Moebius Discovery engine bay drilled for wiring
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And in each engine bell, a few seconds with a rat-tail file was required to create a hole that would allow wires to run all the way to the back of the structure.

Moebius Discovery engine parts opened for wiring
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So far so good. Next time, I’ll start installing lights, and do a bit of painting.

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