Revisiting The National Planetarium, Kuala Lumpur in 2022

The Hubs and I were looking for things to do over the weekend that didn’t involve a mall (but would still have air conditioning, lol) so like the true nerds we are, we ended up at the National Planetarium (Planetarium Negara) in Kuala Lumpur. My last visit here was solo, and it was almost seven years ago. How time flies!

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Good news? Even after all this time, entrance to the planetarium is still free. Considering how much it would cost to maintain the place and keep it running, I think this is a very generous initiative by our Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment.

Video of us mucking about. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

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Most of the exhibits are the same from my previous visit, with a couple of additions. Most notable among them is the “Anti-Gravity Room”. It’s not really ‘anti-gravity’ in that you float around or anything like that, but is more an optical illusion that messes with your balance. Because the chamber is tilted, our brains are unable to process if it’s our body or the items that are supposed to be standing straight – creating a sense of imbalance. The deep blue lighting also adds to the illusion.

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Adding some local flavour to astronomy with cut outs of Malaysian architectural icons
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Malaysia had this whole space fever thing in the late 1990s to early 2000s, the pinnacle of which probably involved sending our first (and to date, only) cosmonaut into space on a Russian space exploration mission.

Sadly, I don’t think there have been many updates in terms of new tech/achievements in space science for the country (or at least, that I am aware of) – and this is reflected in the exhibits at the Planetarium. The takeaway that I would have gotten visiting the planetarium in 2008 would have been exactly the same as what I would get today. In a sense, the museum itself is kind of like a ‘time capsule’, a relic of the massive potential, but unrealized hopes and dreams of a nation.

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One thing I do appreciate is that they have Braille for some of the exhibits, so PWDs can enjoy them too.

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Not sure if it’s a replica (I’m guessing it is, because guests can touch it), but one of the exhibits features the Campo del Cielo, which is a group of iron meteorites that were found in Argentina, believed to date back 4,200 to 4,700 years ago.

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The same periodic table of elements exhibit that was here all those years ago when I first visited: with the addition of some interactive quizzes that you can play on the screens.

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Sample of an astronaut suit. There’s a section here dedicated to Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor – the first Malaysian in space. Sheikh apparently brought Sudirman songs to listen to while on board the Soyuz TMA-11 to the International Space Station. Because he’s Muslim, our religious authorities also came up with a handbook on how to pray in space, including how to determine the direction of Mecca.

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The Ariadne engine, which was used to propel Malaysia’s first satellite (MEASAT) into space, is the highlight of the Planetarium’s exhibitions.

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Space can smell like raspberries. Trivia to tell your friends at your next gathering. But when I do it people stare at me like I have 3 heads, so do so at your own risk.

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Another major highlight at the planetarium is the ‘Space Pod’, which is meant to ‘simulate a ride in space’. Personally, I feel that it’s more of a theme park ride, but hey, whatever keeps people interested and coming. PS: This is a paid experience so you have to shell out RM12+ for it. (I think it was RM12, can’t recall the exact price).

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I wasn’t looking properly during my last visit, but I just realized the English displays are atrocious.

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The Planetarium covers about 11,000 sq feet of space, and there’s an observation tower where you can view the surroundings. Unfortunately this was closed during our visit, so we forked out RM12 per pax to watch a science show in the auditorium instead. This is a theatre with a massive dome-shaped screen, where they play shows in large format. It was a 30-minute presentation on moon, earth and the sun, geared towards families as there were many cartoons and animations incorporated. N and I ended up falling asleep because the dark theatre was like a cozy cocoon and the seats were slightly reclined lol.

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All in all, the visit was enjoyable – but I still left slightly disappointed at the quality of the exhibits. There’s potential, but it’s a far cry from a world-class attraction, and if this is meant to stimulate younger children to gain an interest in space science and technology, let’s just say I don’t think there would be any future astronauts saying “I became an astronaut after my interest was piqued from a visit to the Planetarium”.

That isn’t to say that the trip isn’t worth it. Not many countries in ASEAN have their own public facilities dedicated to space science, and although the National Planetarium is a bit dated, it’s still a fun and relatively engaging experience, especially for families with children. Beats going to the mall anyway. Best of all? It’s free.

PLANETARIUM NEGARA (NATIONAL PLANETARIUM)

Jalan Perdana, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: Daily 9am – 430pm (closed on Mondays)

Phone: 03-2273 4301

https://www.planetariumnegara.gov.my/

Stars and Space at the National Planetarium, KL

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My knowledge of chemistry has been completely returned to my high school teachers after graduating.

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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.

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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! 🙂

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Space suits.

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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.

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Replica of a space cabin, with sleeping space (right), controls, a small hydrophonic mechanism to grow plants, and…

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A toilet.

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*

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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.

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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.

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Similar to KL Tower’s observatory deck, the walls are all glass so you have a 360 degree view of the surroundings.

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The haze was really bad though…

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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.

NATIONAL PLANETARIUM

Jalan Perdana, Tasik Perdana,
50480 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia
Opening hours: 
Daily 9am – 430pm (closed on Mondays)
Phone: 03-2273 4301

 

 

The Space Shuttle: Endeavour @ California Science Center, LA

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Hello! Picking off where we left off after a fun-filled visit to the nearby LA County Museum of Natural History , we walked a short distance to a futuristic-looking building shaped like a bell curve – the California Science Centre. 

Located within the large grounds of LA’s Exposition Park, the science centre is directly opposite a stadium. There was an event going on there because we saw many high school kids in prom getup.

Anyway, we got a package tour – An IMAX 3D film and the Endeavour exhibit. The film that we watched was The Hubble: 3D, a documentary about space exploration. I was still so fatigued from my long flight from Malaysia, that I fell asleep 5mins into the film and spent the remaining hour sleeping, despite the surround sound and everything. You could imagine how tired I was!

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After the film (lol), we were ushered into the main building. Staff will guide visitors with the Endeavour ticket to the special exhibition hall.

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“I want these for my car..”

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Memorabilia from space explorers. It must have been a lonely journey, eating cold, canned food and with nothing to see outside but darkness for weeks on end. This also reminds me of Chris Hadfield’s version of Space Oddity, where he plays a guitar and sings in..well, space.

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Control center replica.

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The star of the exhibits – the Endeavour! It was humbling to gaze on this marvel of human technology that has been to the stars and back. It started its first journey in 1992, and had its last in 2011 before being ‘retired’ into a museum exhibit.It was named after a ship, the HMS Endeavour captained by James Cook in the 1700s. A fitting name.The old Endeavour explored uncharted waters, just as the modern Endeavour explored uncharted space.

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The cynical part of me said: “It’s ironic that mankind can fly into space yet can’t solve their shit on the planet. Like global poverty. Or lack of access to clean water. I mean, so what if you can reach the stars?”

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Training hatch.

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Massive, powerful engines.

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Allocate at least half a day for the place if you’re planning on a visit, coz it’s pretty big! Entrance to the regular exhibits are free, but if you want to look at the Shuttle and watch the film there are ticket charges.

CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTRE

700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles,
CA 90037, United States
Open daily : 10am – 5pm