I’m surprised to see I have not mentioned this yet here on my blog!
A few years ago Matt Johnson approached me with the idea of putting together a book on the Soviet moon rocket, the N-1. I had previously given him some references for making a flying model, and he thought it would be cool to put together a book gathering the research, and using my CGI to illustrate it.
Here’s what we came out with!
(The picture links to the store at ARA Press, where I think you can still buy a copy).
The concept, and my role
The idea was that it would combine a history of the program with a detailed modeller guide. If I had known the effort it would take I would probably never have signed up! But with the help of some Russian friends, notably Axenadart Schliadinsky, we set about it.
Everyone involved had to be patient – Google Translate is not that good for precision, and we frequently had to go back and forth, rewording until things were clear,
For me the huge challenge was to produce detailed, accurate models of all four variants of the N-1, from very limited references. Not only were the references limited – many were downright wrong. Some simple examples!
- I found gasometer parts wrongly identified as N-1 hull.
- Some of the best known photos were misidentified.
- Others had been flipped left to right.
- I found pig pen roof accurately identified as part of L3 hull!
- Even museum models were often wildly inaccurate, (for example, there was no green paint anywhere on any N-1)
- There was a 5th one in photos – the weight model, used to test launch site systems. This was hacked around as the program progresses, and could look like almost anything!
- Photos from the factory during assembly were often great for detail – but with parts that were removed before flight, or not yet added, they could be even more confusing.
- The N1-5L and N1-6l were extremely similar, and hard to identify.
Fortunately Alexander had already done a lot of work in meticulously eliminating errors, and was working on some CAD models. He had also visited the crash sites, and personally taken measurements from the wreckage.
Alex had been researching the N-1 for a LONG time, including while it was still a top secret project. For me, the section in the book on how he got this information is a highlight of the whole project.
And he introduced me to Vladimir Antipov, who had worked at Baikonur after the N-1 program, and had an extensive collection of photos of the remains, working with Alex to reconstruct the details.
A bit later on we also added Igor Bezyaev to the team – at last someone with a good grasp of English and Russian! Igor was also responsible for the sections on the N1 and Mars, (You did know that the N-1 was originally planned to go to Mars, not the Moon, yes?)
I was able to make some ‘new’ photos, by taking the limited video available, and stitching together frames, panorama style. Here’s an example of the N1-3L, being rolled out in the snow.
With this there was a fighting chance of making the definitive CGI models!
More in my next post on this topic…