Last week I went to Walt Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As you may know, Kennedy Spce Center has Space Shuttle Atlantis on display. After seeing such an impressive piece of history, naturally I needed a souvenir. I found this: the Fascinations Metal Earth Space Shuttle Atlantis.
I could not find any good reviews of this model, or any of the other three space shuttle models they make, so, I decided to write one.
There was no clear way to open the package. I ended up opening it along the side.
This is the steel sheet all the parts come in. They are laser cut and engraved. The package says, “Pop them out, put them together, show off your steel model”, but even popping them out was somewhat difficult. Take out all the small pieces first by rotating them back and forth on the pivot points from the triangular attatchement points and then take out the bigger pieces.
This is the enormous instruction sheet included in the package with a quarter for scale. The pictures were easy to follow but there were almost no written instructions to follow, which made things somewhat confusing. You can tell it was written by an engineer, because it says, “Assembly Flow Chart” at the top.
I finished the first part before I thought to take more pictures. Horst, you take a cylindrical object and roll the sides and payload bay doors around it. I had to get some help for this part because I didn’t know what to use or how to use it. We ended up using a fat Sharpie. Use it to roll the roof and then hand-bend the sides approximately parallel.
After you roll the roof, attatch part #2 to the nose as it shows in the instructions. Hand-bend the cockpit down and bend over the tabs. I thought this was going be very difficult, but the nose was the easiest part.
Yes, it’s the same picture as before.
Engineers are big fans of confusion, because then you skip across to the other side of the instruction book to build the tail ad engines. I rolled the smaller maneuvering engines around a Lego 4l bar, the kind that can clip into minifigure hands. This piece is ever-so-slightly too big, so you won’t be able to insert the tabs on one end into the holes in the other. Insert the two tabs on the back of the engine into the two holes on the engine plate, part #3. Make sure the engines are attatched to the side of part #3 that has grooves in it.
We used Lego Technic pins for the main engines. These were a little easier than the maneuvering engines. Insert these with the ugly side where the ends meet facing in on the same side of the plate as the maneuvering engines. To fold in the tabs, which each main engine has four of, the instructions and the website say to use a needle-nose pliers. I say, no. If you put the pliers in the wrong place when gripping, they will leave marks and ruin the look of your model. We used a tweezer, which works just as well and doesn’t leave marks.
After the main engines, you build the big bulges on the back of the shuttle. We found a pen that was the same size as the circle on part #3 and rolled the cylinder part of part #6 around it. We used a tweezers to bend in the cone part of it. The hexagon part, #7, goes on the end. I hand-bent three of the four tabs on both of the nacelles, because the tweezer was a little hard to use on that.
After that comes the tail. The tail is very easy to build. Fold parts #8 and 9 and put them together. Be careful not to squash the tail when bending the tabs.
Tha tail goes in between the two nacelles. The whole tail assembly is then attatched to the body of the orbiter.
You then go back to the right side of the instruction sheet. Fold the stand so that the dark side is out.
The wings are next. They are kind of confusing. You fold them so the middle hangs down below the wings. It shows this on the package and in the instructions. However, some pictures online show it being flush with the bottom. Maybe those people put it together wrong. Fold the wing first and then fold the channel second. Lay the wing on a hard, flat surface and fold the channel part up so the wing stays flat. Do not hand bend it. Insert the stand into the proper holes in the wing.
After this, all that is left is to put the two halves together. It is relatively easy with just four tabs. It will be considerably harder if the bottom of the body is splayed out, so try your best to keep them straight up.
The completed orbiter.
The orbiter ends up about four inches long, three inches wide, and two and a half inches tall. It is incredibly shiny. The only problem I have with it is that it has a big hole in the bottom, but you can’t see it anyway. Since there are holes behind the main engines as well, you could easily put a red LED in and light up the engines.
I would definitely recommend this to space fans. I would also definitely buy another Metal Earth model if I could find one with less round pieces to make and a little bit less complex. Other online reviews say this model is good for beginners. Compared to some of their other models, I would definitely agree. However, there are other models that are simpler than this. This was challenging but definitely fun. It took us from 5:18 PM to 7:02 PM, a grand total of 1 hour and 44 minutes. The guy at the gift shop at KSC said he built the model they had for display in 45 minutes, but perhaps he’s built some Metal Earth models before. They had others for sale there, like the Apollo lander and a Mars rover, but they didn’t have display models up for those.