One of the earliest spaceship memories for me are the Apollo missions. Still love them. But on fiction it’s the Tintin Destination Moon and Explorers on Moon comics albums by Hergé. The iconic red and white checkered rocket is one helluva spaceship! It was first seen in Belgium’s Tintin magazine in 1950, that is 74 years ago, 19 years before Apollo 11.

The realism, the depictions of mass, inertia, low gravity and weightlessness in these Tintin stories is astonishing. Even though everything isn’t 100% correct Hergé shows thorough understanding of these things. Today it seems pretty basic but back then it was anything but basic. Stanley Kubrick gets a lot of praise for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie I love to bits, but Hergé was there tackling these concepts almost two decades earlier. Film and comics are obviously not straightforwardly comparable but maybe it shows how much thought Hergé put in this story. I mean, you see movies and tv-shows getting it wrong even today (excluding space operas, they take liberties), it’s really not that easy.

One wild scene in the comics was when Tintin stepped out the rocket in a spacesuit to save drunken and delusional Captain Haddock from drifting into space. The moment the rocket engine goes back online and how the acceleration yanks Tintin and Haddock hanging from safety rope is amazing. You can feel there is a mighty force at play.

For me the rocket was always there but my perception of it changed on my trip to Angoulême comics fair, France, in 2000. There was a buzz about the city planning to build a 50 meter tall model of the rocket next to The Museum of Comics located by a river that runs through the city. The city boasts several comics landmarks, there are murals and statues, including the statue of Corto Maltese, one of my favourites. The statue of Hergé himself near the center of the city is remarkable. Angoulême is a lovely little place that lives and breathes comics.

Sadly, the rocket was never built. They say the area reserved for the construction was unstable, it wouldn’t have sustained the weight of the rocket. Or maybe they got cold feet.

The image of a 50 meter rocket towering over a city stayed with me however. It was an exciting idea I thought, an incredibly visual one. I made a promise to myself that if I ever got my hands on a Tintin Moon rocket model I’d make something out of it. On my most recent trip to Angoulême in 2019, just before the pandemic, I took some photographs with this in mind. I had a small point-and-shooter with me only, so the quality wasn’t ideal but it captures the feels just fine.

I finally got myself a Tintin Moon rocket collectible a couple of weeks ago, it’s 30 centimeters tall and bloody expensive. It’s quite lovely though, I like it a lot. But it got me thinking whether a more “real” model was better. I wouldn’t alter the one I got, it’s a collectible after all, it’d have to be something else, maybe a 3D-printed one.

The first question was how tall is the rocket supposed to be in the comics. After a quick survey on Instagram and Mastodon it seems there is a consensus at around 55 to 63 meters. Now, let’s round it to 60 meters. If that is the height, my collectible is in a quite small 1:200 scale. If I wanted a 1:72 scale rocket, a common modeling scale in which there is lots of accessories available, it would be approximately 83 centimeters tall. That’s pretty big!

Weathering and detailing a 83 centimeter tall Tintin rocket would be interesting. Engine exhaust marks, atmospheric friction streaks, dust, things like that would make it come alive. Would it look something like this 3D render from Greg Broadmore? If I’m not mistaken Broadmore worked on The Adventures of Tintin (2011) movie and made this as concept art. It seems they at least considered adapting the Tintin Moon mission to a film. Or maybe this was just a promo for what could be. Whatever it is, I always liked this image.

Image ©Greg Broadmore / Weta. Source.
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