Sharp eyed readers of Soyuz Blue, Volume Two, have noted that toy that Colonel Molotov hangs at the top of the space capsule for luck is a famous American astronaut.
The year was 1966. The US was finishing up project Gemini and preparing for the first Apollo Moon missions. The Mattel toy company rolled out an action figure based on the latest designs available in Life, Jane’s Aviation, and Nasa publications.
He was Major Matt Mason, who lived on the Moon with his buddies in a sleek transparent base with a lot of cool plastic hardware. The crew had color coded space suits. Matt looked fashion forward in classic white. Sgt. Storm made a bold statement in red, while civilian astronaut Doug Davis prowled the moon in chrome yellow. Lt. Jeff Long was clad in blue. Jeff was African-American and a member of Mattel’s team almost two decades before Guion Bluford became the first black man in space.
As a toy the Major and his subordinates left something to be desired. Their wire joints had a tendency to snap, and paint would peel off of their black “plastizol” bodies. For astronauts, they broke rather easily.
In the early Seventies, after the peak of interest in the Apollo missions faded, Matt and crew were rebooted as sci-fi adventurers and teamed with a rogues gallery of aliens. The toy line was discontinued in the mid seventies, ironically just a few years before the advent of Star Wars.
Matt Mason is actually rumored to have flown on several Space Shuttle missions as a mascot.
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