Just before the United States put a man on the moon, the space race and the media hype around it created a vast market for toys like Johnny Astro.  Appearing to defy the laws of physics, this toy could fly a space vehicle in mid air.

Welcome to the Johnny Astro Web Site!  If you're a fan of this great toy, you've found the number one resource for Johnny Astro information, parts and service. 

www.JohnnyAstro.com is for sale


This site is best viewed with a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 .

Reproduction Landing Carriages (no longer available)
Reproduction Balloons (Mars and Luner) (no longer available)
Reproduction Balloons (Moon Probe) (no longer available)
Johnny Astro Replication Project
 

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  • Control Center

  • Launching Station

  • 3 Space Vehicles

  • 2 Under Carriages

  • Astronaut & Capsule

  • Space Vehicle Template

  • Instructions

 

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Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.


A complete Johnny Astro set.  Click on the picture for a larger view.

The space vehicles were actually 9 inch balloons.  The original balloons were white however some were possibly tan in color.  The balloons featured great graphics.  Each balloon had a common red logo on the back and a black "MARS 2" or "LUNA 3" logo in front, with or without the "USA".  Most of the original balloons have since disintegrated.  What you see here is one of our reproduction balloons with the astronaut and undercarriage properly taped to the bottom.


The "Space Vehicle"

It appears that Topper produced a number of balloons using different processes.  Pictured to the left is an actual scan of a rare original Johnny Astro Balloon inflated.  This balloon is not very good quality.  Another picture we have suggests that at some point,  Topper made balloons that looked much more like those pictured on the box and in ads. 

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Click on the thumbnail for a larger view.

The light weight astronaut was kept in a transparent space capsule.  Like the undercarriage, the astronaut and capsule were taped to the bottom of the balloon.  Due to the additional weight, the space vehicle would not fly quite as far but the added realism made it worth it.

 


The astronaut, capsule and undercarriage.
Click on the left thumbnail for a larger view.

To our knowledge, at least three companies manufactured their own version of Johnny Astro.  Topper Toys in North America, Triang Toys in the UK and Moldex Ltd. of Fairfield, Victoria in Australia.   The most enhanced version appears to be Triangs' with a colorful moon to land on, vivid box graphics, a fancy balloon template, a hook and pick-up items.  The North American model (possibly the first) was clearly influenced by NASA and their space program.  In one of the two models, the control panel features a fuel cell gauge.  Fuel cells were developed by NASA as a compact and efficient replacement for batteries, often using  hydrogen to electrochemically produce electricity.  Most of the Apollo missions used fuel cells as an electrical  power source.  Moldex may have produced the rarest of all Johnny Astro's.  There were significant aesthetic differences in the control center and included was a 12 volt power adapter.  See the related products page for more information.

Significant engineering went into this toy.  The fan unit is a precision ducted fan that is connected to the joystick with  linkages and bearings.  Ducted fans improve thrust by over 30% when compared to a conventional, open propeller.   The joystick allowed you to move the fan unit in any direction while the throttle control adjusted the fans air velocity. 

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Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

Flying takes skill, concentration and a steady hand. You can launch and land the space vehicle on most level surfaces as long as they are somewhat elevated.  Flying distance is about four or five feet. The space vehicle flies furthest without the astronaut however it is less stable because the astronaut and capsule act as ballast to stabilize the balloon.  As you move the space vehicle further way, the directional control becomes increasingly more sensitive.  At full throttle the space vehicle begins to shutter.  The more vertical you aim the fan, the more thrust you require to maintain altitude.  

When you first demonstrate this toy, most people ask how it does what it does!  You would expect that the fan (let's call it the propulsion unit) would simply blow the balloon off in some direction and the balloon would then land on the floor.  Instead, the propulsion unit generates a beam of stable air with some kind of inner vortex that locks the balloon in place in "mid air", as the box states.  It's an amazing effect.

Some people have difficulty trying to take-off at first.  To get you started, you can put the directional control in autopilot. The autopilot was a piece of metal that you could swing to the side to prop the joystick in the perfect take-off position.  The trick to a smooth lift-off is to aim the propulsion unit toward the upper half of the balloon, then increase thrust slowly. Once airborne, you gradually apply more thrust and steadily maneuver the space vehicle to some landing place.  Landing is tough but very doable. After you successfully land, if you're really good, you can launch the space vehicle from that same spot and bring it back home for a safe landing.  Again, the trick is to aim high.  If you are interested in some added fun, try building a landing base stand to hold the accessory landing pads.

Steve B's article on his Nostalgia web site focuses on his frustration with the toy because of his inability to successfully fly the space vehicle.  Maybe there was a flaw in the toy.  Our  video demonstrates how incredible this toy actually was, taking off and landing from the launch pad and other surfaces.  As well, there are lots of photos that show what this toy can do.


Full throttle put me beyond Mars!


In autopilot, the space vehicle waits for the next command .


This UK model was too much for Steve to handle.

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