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Updated: May 25, 2024

One of the most eye-catching elements of the 1965 CBS series Lost in Space was the space family Robinson's dazzling spaceship, the Jupiter-2. Art director William Creber designed this atomic-powered flying saucer for the pilot episode. Robert Kinoshita ( a Forbidden Planet veteran who created Robby the Robot, as well as his Lost in Space counterpart) refined and detailed the model for the series.

The Jupiter-2 served as both the main standing set and the show's most-used model. Given the popularity of Lost in Space, it is amazing that no model kit of the popular spacecraft was produced in America during the show's three-year run. The Japanese company Maruson produced two kits in the 1960's, but they were not widely distributed in the United States. ( Maruson's highly detailed kits now fetch thousands on the collector's market ).

As a former "child" of Lost in Space, I was delighted to discover Lunar Models' Jupiter-2 kits. Here, at last, was an affordable version of my favorite TV spaceship ( sorry, Enterprise ). Lunar Models, a San Mateo based mail order firm, produces several versions of the Jupiter-2, in sizes up to twenty-four inches. So many different kits are available because, like its Star Trek cousin the Enterprise, the Jupiter-2 under went many subtle alterations throughout the run of the show: dimensions changed, windows appeared and disappeared depending on whether miniatures or full-size mock-ups were used. Lost in Space was never known for it's consistency.

Lost in Space Jupiter-2 Model Kit Lunar Models "popular version" ( #SF050 ) of the Jupiter-2 is a 5-1/2" replica of the ship in flight with landing legs extended. This configuration of the Jupiter-2 is seen in the third season's "Visit to a Hostile Planet" and other episodes. This solid resin kit with vacuum-form and brass details weighs a hefty ten ounces when assembled. If you are a novice model builder, be aware that resin kits are generally more difficult to build than styrene kits. A few general rules apply. First, all parts must be washed in mild detergent to remove mold-release oils; these oils can interfere with paint adhesion. Second, light sanding of all surfaces produces a more uniform finish for painting. And, finally, Superglue ( cyanoacrylates ) must be used for assembly; styrene cement will not work.

Assembly of this kit is quite simple; the two halves of the saucer are glued together and painted as a unit. Spray-painting or airbrushing with Testor's chrome silver gives the most uniform results for the Jupiter-2's metallic silver exterior. Paint the recessed panel lights in the power core white by applying a droplet of paint with a toothpick. I was unsatisfied with the instructions' recommendation to simply "paint in" the main windows; instead, I cut window "glass" from sheet acetate, back painted them gloss white, and cemented them in place. This produced a nice illusion of lighted windows with glass-like reflective surfaces.

The dome for atop the ship is provided in clear plastic. To simulate the blinking lights of the sensor array beneath the dome, I used clear rhinestones. After painting the dome base a flat black, I glued the rhinestones in the dome at angles. With the translucent dome cemented into place, the slightly-obscured rhinestones look like lights.

The most difficult to assemble structures in this kit are the landing legs. Each is composed of a stairway and foot piece of resin and a two-piece strut of brass. The use of metal was probably dictated by the weight of the model. Brass is supplied in pieces that must be carefully cut to match a template. There is no room for error, so proceed with great care. The paint on the ship body should be scraped away from the area where the legs will be cemented. After the cement dries, the legs should be hand-painted chrome silver. The finished model is a very satisfying representation of the Jupiter "coming in for a landing."

Lost in Space Crash Site Kit:

Quite a bit more complicated is Lunar Models Lost in Space Crash-Site kit. This fifteen-inch diorama features the Jupiter-2 half buried in the ground and the Chariot ( the Robinson's metal and plexiglass land-rover ) amid rocky scenery. The Jupiter-2 and base are vacuum-formed plastic; the rocks and most of the Chariot pieces are resin-cast. The ship's top dome, as well as the Chariot's glass topper, are clear plastic.

The shocker with this kit is that many pieces necessary for construction are not included. The modeler must purchase sheet styrene and use the kit's templates to cut the rest of the parts. Though a hassle, the results are worth the effort. The Jupiter-2 in the kit must have floor panels, walls, and windows added. Great care must be taken to fit your hand-cut parts. A sharp hobby knife and plenty of sandpaper are a must. The tiny two-inch Chariot has more than thirty-five tiny parts that must be carved down to fit.

Fortunately, the kit's instructions are very clear and the painting recommendations are precise. With patience you can produce a beautiful model scene from this kit. My only modifications were to paint the Jupiter-2's windows gloss white on the inside. This worked well also for the top dome, which was rarely visible in this configuration on the show.

One tiny complaint: the kit is devoid of human figures, so the finished diorama has a static quality. ( I say it's a night scene, and the crew is in bed )! A tiny resin-cast Robot on patrol would have been the perfect finishing touch. For modelers inexperienced with resin and vacuum-form plastic kits, these provide a not-too-difficult introduction, if you are willing to do much more finish work than the average styrene kit demands. For Lost in Space fans, these fill a void that has nagged us since 1965.

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