by Stephen M. Glenfield
For those of you who’d like to have a plastic replica of any Mars-related craft, the unfortunate news is that the field is fairly limited. At one time Lindberg made a couple of kits, titled “Mars Probe Space Station” and “Mars Probe Landing Module”. These kits were simply reissues of existing kits with new titles, and are only available in online auctions.
Another pair of old kits that are currently available are Glencoe’s reissue of the old Mars Liner and Convair Manned Observation Satellite. While not kits of real Mars spacecraft, they have the benefit of being relatively inexpensive.
Also in the relatively inexpensive category are the Mars craft offered by toy-makers Mattel and Play Visions. I am sure most of you are familiar with the Mattel Sojourner Rover set, as this set has been readily available in toy stores and featured on the news at the time of the landing. A lesser known offering from Mattel is the “Return to Mars” set, which features the Mars Polar Lander, Climate Orbiter and Deep Space 2 probe. Unfortunately, this set is difficult to find, likely due to the mission failures. Play Visions makes two Mars vehicles- a small Viking Orbiter with attached aeroshell, and a larger Viking lander. The Play Vision vehicles are not as accurate as the Mattel offerings (the lander has four legs, not three) but they can usually be found at museum gift shops.
Finally, for those of you that are both experienced model makers and have sufficient funding, RealSpace Models offers a 1/24th scale model of the Viking Orbiter and Lander. The kit is mixed media, being both resin and metal parts, and costs $150.00, but is worth every penny. RealSpace has a reputation for making highly detailed, extremely accurate kits, and the Viking kit is no exception. The company is also planning to market a Mariner 9 kit in the near future.