I was feeling random and restless over the weekend, so I thought of going out even though the haze was pretty bad. Initially, the plan was to head to the National Science Center in Bukit Kiara, but upon getting there the guard told me it was closed (!!) until 2016 -_-“. Well, that’s a bummer… there was no notice online since the website is ‘under maintenance’. Since I was already out, I didn’t want to go home so soon, so I drove another 15 minutes away to where the National Planetarium was.
Located within the Lake Gardens, which is a large park with several tourist attractions, the National Planetarium sits on a hill and was opened in 1993, when Malaysia decided to jump onto the whole space exploration bandwagon. The building is inspired by Islamic architecture, so it has a large blue dome, a minaret-like observation tower and a grand-looking staircase leading up to the entrance.
Eager to escape the choking haze, I climbed up the steps and into the clean, air-conditioned comforts of the building.
Thrifty travelers will be delighted to know that entrance to the Planetarium is free. The interior was dark with a high ceiling to simulate a spacey environment. There were information boards and exhibits which visitors can try their hand at.
Each of these panels represented a planet, with an ‘experiment’ relating to that planet to try out. Jupiter’s panel, for example, had a wind machine to create a mini typhoon. :)
Since it was the weekend, there were many school pupils. I waited for the swarm to pass on to a different section before going through the exhibits… because you know how kids are. They can be so screamy.
One of the coolest features in the main hall was this colourful periodic table of elements. Instead of a bland-boring-blah table, they made it into a display case, featuring items containing each element (Except the radioactive ones, of course)! There was shampoo for selenium, toothpaste for flourine, Mountain Dew for bromine, and loads more.
My knowledge of chemistry has been completely returned to my high school teachers after graduating.
There were more interesting exhibits at the Space Exploration Gallery, like this ball-like contraption used to test G-Force. The info boards also chronicled space exploration’s history, both local and abroad.
Malaysia sent our first ‘astronaut’ (well, he was a commercial one but I guess that still counts), Mr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, into space in 2007. The gallery features some of the vacuum-packed food he brought with him on the Russian space mission, including cookies, dried fruits and -get this – chicken satay. We Malaysians love our food so much that we must have em, even millions of miles away from home! :)
One of the star attractions here is the Arianne IV space engine. It was one of the engines used to launch MEASAT 1, our first satellite into space. The exhaust is so large that a few people can crawl into it comfortably.
Replica of a space cabin, with sleeping space (right), controls, a small hydrophonic mechanism to grow plants, and…
I’ve always wondered how astronauts take a dump in space. Apparently the toilet has a strong vacuum mechanism to suck all the waste. Otherwise, it’s free floating poop and pee in the cabin O-O and we don’t want that.
Writing this has also raised a question.
How do female astronauts menstruate in space if there is no gravity ? *mindblown*
The planetarium covers 11,000 sqm of space, so it’s not very big. There are also space shows throughout the day but since it was a paid show I gave it a skip.
The small mezzanine floor overlooking the main gallery has a few other exhibits that talk about waves, with displays of radios, microwaves and other wave-tech items.
In a (rather hidden) corner, there was a lift leading up to the observatory.
Similar to KL Tower’s observatory deck, the walls are all glass so you have a 360 degree view of the surroundings.
The haze was really bad though…
Almost every year, Indonesia’s rampant forest fires and unhealthy agricultural burning by forest clearing causes winds to blow the smog over to Malaysia and Singapore. This year was particularly terrible for some reason. The sun was clouded over for a full three weeks! It has only just gotten a teensy bit better, but the air quality is still unhealthy in many regions.
The Planetarium trip was a fun and educational one, suitable for both adults and kids. :) I recommend visitors to drop by some time, since it’s also in the vicinity of many other attractions like the KL bird park, the beautiful Lake Gardens and the Islamic Arts Museum.