Halfway to the Moon

22 September, 2010

Peter building up the Moon's surface
Peter building up the Moon's surface with modelling medium and a paintbrush.
Source: Museum Victoria

Working from a detailed map of the Moon’s surface, MV model-maker Peter Roberts is building an accurate model of the Moon for the upcoming exhibition Dynamic Earth.

Our Moon’s surface is covered in geological features including volcanoes, large basaltic plains called mares, and millions of craters that formed through impacts by meteorites, asteroids and comets. Peter is about halfway through recreating the Moon’s topography and is working systematically to ensure the model is accurate. With so many craters, all named after prominent scientists, historical and mythological figures, it’s a painstaking task.

The underlying form for the model is a polyethylene lampshade in a piece of typically ingenious repurposing. As Peter explained, “it was a bit of a layering process to get them ready. Polyethylene doesn’t take materials very well… nothing sticks to it. So we put a fibreglass coating around it and then sprayed a medium onto that that we could draw on.”

Peter builds up the topography by applying several layers of modelling medium. Right now he’s working on Mare Orientale (Latin for ‘Eastern Sea’) which is a large impact crater with a distinctive ring around it. “I’ve also noticed a lot of craters in a line… from where a string of asteroids have hit. You can see strings of four or five craters, diminishing in size as they go along.” Once he’s finished, preparator Brendan Taylor will paint the model to match the Moon's appearance from Earth.

“Being a model-maker, I believe you don’t really understand something until you build it. You get more of a feel for it," said Peter. "As a kid I was always interested in the Apollo missions. I always dreamed of going to the moon but this is as close as I’ll get, I think!”

The exhibition will also include several models of the Earth in different periods of its existence. Starting with a molten planet, the series will show the formation of the oceans and continents and ends with a prediction of how Earth may look in 100 million years. Dynamic Earth, the last in the four-stage redevelopment of the Science and Life Galleries, will open in late October 2010.

Comments (5)

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Rubinator 11 October, 2010 18:24
OMG!!! I am so going to love the detail you are putting into the model of the moon, as well as the Dynamic Earth exhibition in general!!
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Kate 23 September, 2010 13:40
Nicole, Sarah and Bernard, thanks for your lovely comments! I've passed them on to Peter and Brendan.
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Bernard 23 September, 2010 09:22
Props to the Preps: their work is amazing, and a vital physical link between our imaginations and the objects in the collection.
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Sarah 22 September, 2010 11:58
Congratulations on another stunning example of Preps genius! The child in me who made a papier-mache moon in Year 7 is jumping up and down with delight: I am so looking forward to this exhibition!
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nicole 22 September, 2010 10:00
Wow, that is amazingly detailed work!
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