2008-08-01: 50 Years of NASA

Curated by Tim Nelson. August – October, 2008.

A collection of models and artifacts celebrating the many aspects of NASA’s first 50 years. (Link to article)

Models on display


1963 Pontiac Catalina Tow Vehicle (for M2-F1)

NASA's "muscle car" was purchased and modified for initial tow tests of the M2-F1 lifting body at Edwards AFB in California.

Scale: 1/24 Modeler: Jon Fincher

Bell X-1A

The X-1A improved upon the famous X-1, and at one time held both the world speed and altitude records.

Scale: 1/32 Modeler: Terry Moore

Douglas D-558-1

A joint program of the U.S. Navy and NACA, the "Skystreak" contributed significantly to understanding transonic flight (near Mach 1, the speed of sound).

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Dan Carey

Douglas X-3

It looked fast but flew slow. Still, the X-3 contributed to understanding the "inertia coupling" phenomena that plagued long-bodied, thin-winged aircraft in the early 1950s.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Neil Makar

Lockheed F-104 Chase Aircraft

This F-104 represents a wide variety of aircraft performing chase and support functions. It could accompany many high performance aircraft over much of their flight envelopes.

Scale: 1/48 Modeler: Neil Makar

Lockheed NF-104 Aerospace Trainer

The USAF installed a 6,000 lb thrust rocket engine in the tail of 3 F-104 Starfighter aircraft to create a training vehicle for future USAF and NASA rocket pilots.

Scale: 1/48 Modeler: Charlie Sorensen

Martin X-23 PRIME Re-entry Test Vehicle

This 1/6 scale version of the USAF X-24A lifting body was successfully launched into space and recovered. The X-23/X-24A configuration strongly influenced NASA's late 1990s X-38 vehicle.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson


The first NASA lifting body was a lightweight "proof of concept" vehicle made mostly of wood. First towed by NASA's souped up Pontiac, later by an R4D (C-47) airplane.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

North American X-15A2

Probably the most significant research aircraft ever, the X-15 made giant contributions to the understanding of hypersonic flight. X-15 data directly influenced the design of the Space Shuttle.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Jacob Russell

North American X-15A2 (ablative coating)

The final X-15 flights explored high Mach numbers, reaching Mach 6.7. A special ablative (burn-away) coating was applied to protect the structure from the tremendous heat generated at these speeds.

Scale: 1/48 Modeler: Charlie Sorensen

Northrop HL-10

The fastest (Mach 1.86) and highest flying (90,303 ft) lifting body, the HL-10 was rocket powered and carried aloft by a B-52.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Northrop M2-F2

The first heavyweight lifting body, derived from the M2-F1 configuration. It had serious handling problems. Nearly destroyed in a non-fatal landing accident, it was rebuilt as the successful M2-F3.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Paraglider Research Vehicle (Parasev)

This contraption was based on the ideas of NACA engineer Francis Rogallo. It was a testbed for studying gliding spacecraft recovery methods that were considered for Project Gemini.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Doug Girling

X-38 Autonomous Crew Return Vehicle Testbed

An International Space Station crew return vehicle concept, the X-38 was based on the USAF X-23/X-24A configuration. The vehicle was recovered automatically by parasail.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

TF-8A Super-Critical Wing Testbed

A Vought Crusader was used to investigate supercritical airfoil technology, which reduces the strength of shockwaves that form on transonic aircraft wings. This technology is now common on commercial airliners.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Terry Moore

Locomotive, NASA Railroad

NASA operates its own 38 mile short line railroad at Cape Canaveral in Florida, hauling everything from solid rocket booster segments to large helium tanks.

Scale: 1/87 Modeler: Jim Schubert

Apollo Command Service Module

This see-through model provides a view inside the core component of the Apollo program, the Command/Service Module.

Scale: 1/32 Modeler: John Derosia

NASA Panel Truck

An essential part of NASA’s infrastructure, this panel truck ferried Gemini and Apollo astronauts to the launch pad.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Doug Girling

Buzz Aldrin figure, Apollo 11

Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were the first of 12 American men to walk on the moon between 1969 and 1972.

Scale: 1/24 Modeler: Les Knerr

Gemini Spacecraft and Project Patch

The United States mastered all the key elements required for moon missions during the Gemini program: spacewalk, orbital rendezvous & docking, and missions of up to 14 days duration.

Scale: Approx 1/24 Modeler: Jake Schultz Collection

Gulf Lunar Model (paper)

In the summer of 1969, this paper model kit was given to customers filling their tanks at Gulf Oil gas stations.

Scale: 1/44 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Mercury Capsule (Grissom)

In between Alan Shepard's and John Glenn's famous flights, Gus Grissom rode Liberty Bell 7 on a sub-orbital trajectory. It sank after splashdown and was recovered in 1999.

Scale: 1/12 Modeler: Terry Moore

Space Shuttle Stack and STS-1 Mission Patch

The world's only reusable spacecraft and the United States' space "truck" since 1981. This model represents the first shuttle mission, STS-1, April 12-14, 1981.

Scale: 1/144 Modeler: Tim Nelson (Patch from Norm Filer Collection)

Apollo-Saturn V Moon Rocket

Scale: 1/96 Modeler: John Derosia

Hubble Space Telescope

One of humanity's greatest scientific instruments, the Hubble has peered into the farthest reaches of space.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: John Derosia

Mars Rover

The rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity" have explored Mars for 4+ years, well beyond their 90 day design life. Among their many discoveries is that liquid water was once present.

Scale: 1/24 Modeler: Scott Kruize

Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 and 11 were the first spacecraft to explore Jupiter and Saturn, and the first human-made objects sent out of the solar system.

Scale: 1/24 Modeler: Don Conrard

Voyager 2

Voyager 2 conducted a spectacular planetary "Grand Tour", flying by Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. It and Voyager 1 are now travelling outbound in interstellar space, still sending data.

Scale: 1/24 Modeler: John Derosia

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