Like a deus ex machina, an innovation hit the scene that could not have had a greater impact on the conventions of meteorite photography: The meteorite scalecube, calibre 10 mm. Engraved with letters representing both the cardinal points adittionally to top and bottom, the metric scalecube elevated the genus of reference tools into the third dimension.
We wanted to know who came up first with the cubic invention, so we asked NASA but nobody there lay claim to the revolutionary idea. More precisely we didn’t receive an answer at all so we must assume that NASA keeps their scalecube files restricted up to the present day. With no access to this vital information, we were forced to push forward our own behind-the-scenes investigation.
Soviet cube model, unknown production date, pictured with Sikhote Alin sample. Image courtesy of Vernadsky Institute, Moscow
Scanning through ANSMET archives, we found early photographs featuring scalecubes dating back to the time of the cold war in the late seventies. We have not yet been able to identify the mother of all cubes, but the device displayed in picture 2 is without doubt a very early version. The material seems to be solid metal, engraved letters are approx 5 mm tall and less than 5 mm wide. This version already has the vertical ‘I’ serving as a bottom indicator. The style of lettering seems to be Arial narrow. In the following we will refer to this version as the type A cube.
On the other side of the great Pond, NASA’s headstart in meteorite scalecube technology did not stay unnoticed for long. The Russian academy of sciences, known for their effective intelligence, countered the US provocation with ease. Their answer was an easy to operate, technologically less complicated and aesthetically pleasing cube. Instead of Arrial Narrow the Vernadsky team used a plain Arial font. Presumably to save production capacities, they decided to spare the bottom indicator. But the major advantage of the communist version was its large letters that could be read clearly from a greater distance than the small inscriptions of the US version.