Recreating Mercury - Part 1


The Mercury program was NASA's first manned spaceflight program which launched the likes of Alan Shephard and John Glenn into space in the early 1960s. The capsules, barely large enough to house a single astronaut, were cramped and handbuilt. As Infinity 7 takes place on a fictional Mercury flight, we needed a set for our spacecraft.


Recreating the Mercury capsule on a small budget was no easy task. The cockpit took a lot of research: we painstakingly collected various photos, diagrams and line drawings from various sources and used them to map out our set design. Our first challenge was accurately determining the size of the cockpit and the control panels inside. We overlayed photos with line drawings and diagrams to piece together a faithful representation of the Mercury spacecraft. No two Mercury spacecraft are alike, which made the process of recreating one all the more difficult.

With reference materials in hand, the real work of designing and building began. We traced up the control panel designs in Adobe Illustrator, and got the designs cut on high-quality hardboard using a laser-cutting company. We finished and painted the panels and installed the switches, buttons and LEDs.

To operate the set's electronics, we used an Arduino, a simple hobbyist microcontroller that can control lights, switches and motors. This allowed us to control each of the cockpit's 48 LEDs and 12 gauges independently. We used a laptop to simulate various mission conditions as called for by the script.

The many internal components that could not be sourced (such as breakers and pull handles) were designed and 3d printed on our Prusa i3 Mk2 3d printer in PLA plastic. These prints were sanded, painted and finished to look like the original components. Since we needed multiple copies of many unique fixtures, such as the circuit breakers, we made silicone molds and cast copies. In addition, we designed an internal frame of 3d printed brackets to create structural support for the various control panels.

After we finished the control panels, we packaged and shipped them to our makeshift studio in Texas where we would build the full set...