Newest Review: ... fun but perhaps just two hours, maybe. The entrance lobby had a few interesting gadgets and interactive displays, but I remember thinkin... more
Fly Me To The Moon
Member Name: kenjohn
Date: 20/03/01, updated on 20/03/01 (104 review reads)
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~ ~ Ever since I was a teenager in the 1960’s, I have had a fascination with space and the planets. This was the golden age of space travel, with the Americans and Russians competing against each other in their bid to be the first to send a man to the Moon.
The Americans were to win this race when Neil Armstrong uttered those immortal words, “One small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind” when he became the first human to set foot on the lunar surface in July of 1969.
Many have travelled there since, but as a young man of eighteen, sitting watching this moment of history being enacted on an old 20-inch black and white TV, it was like the dawning of a new era.
I’ll never forget the now famous words as the shuttle touched down, “The Eagle has landed, Houston.”
I had visions of booking package holidays at a Moon base in ten years time, and of interplanetary travel becoming as common place as air travel is today.
Since then the impetus would appear to have gone out of manned space flight, so at the age of 49, I am beginning to accept (reluctantly) that my dream of one day gazing down at this wonderful Earth of ours from space may never actually be realised.
~ ~ So when I found myself in London in February, 2000, for the first time in many years, a visit to the famous Planetarium at Madame Tussauds was very high on my list of things to do.
We went as a family, myself and my wife, and our nine year old daughter, (actually she was eight then!) and enjoyed the experience immensely.
We bought the combined ticket that entitles you to visit both Madame Tussauds and the Planetarium, and in fairness it wasn’t that cheap, at a cost of about £14 per head, or £42 for the three of us, but was worth every penny.
Tussauds is an experience in itself, and I’ll return to that in a later opinion, but for the moment let me tell you about the wonders that await you in the Planetarium, which is the
nearest most people will ever get to actual space travel.
~ ~ The highlight of the experience is off course the huge copper dome itself, where you watch the majesty of the Universe unfold in all its glory before your very eyes, but before you even get this far, there is a small exhibition area that is also enormously interesting.
Here there are wax portraits of many of the world’s most famous astronomers, that helps to put a human face to such famous names as Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo, and Edmond Halley. (he discovered the famous comet!)
The heroes of today are also represented, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first “moon men”, on prominent display.
There is also a mass of information about the planets themselves, enough to satisfy anyone’s curiosity, and many of the displays are interactive, which helps to attract and hold the attention of the children in particular.
Take plenty one and two pence coins, as there is a very popular display that shows the way in which a “black hole” in space sucks in all before it. The objects that it swallows in this case are the aforementioned coins, and I quite literally had to drag my little one away before she bankrupted the remainder of the holiday.
This exhibition is fascinating fare, and well worth taking a little time over to digest fully, before entering the main dome itself.
~ ~ The main dome is laid out in much the same way as your average cinema, with rows of chairs, but here the similarity ends.
Instead of looking at a flat screen, you instead take your gaze upwards towards the heavens.
As the lights dim, the whole roof of the dome gradually becomes a multicoloured and mind boggling vista of the heavens, that grabs both your attention and imagination, leaving you nearly believing that you are actually sitting in the pilot’s seat of a spacecraft, navigating your way around the Universe.
There is a fabulous commentary to l
et you know what it is exactly you are looking at, and it is done in such a way as to be understandable to all, and not just to the rocket scientists and geniuses amongst us.
You learn about the various planets and their moons, about different types of stars and galaxies, about sun spots, black holes, worm holes, and just about anything else your imagination can possibly envisage.
~ ~ I had visited this exhibit once before in my life, in the early 1970’s, but since then it has improved immensely.
In 1995, the old projector they had used for decades was finally retired, and replaced with the most modern type available for this type of exhibit, a state of the art projection system called the "Digistar 2”. This weighs in at more than half a ton, and is the most advanced of its kind in the whole of Europe, being the only system that can project more than 9,000 stars, as well as giving the viewer the effect of actual space travel.
NASA in fact developed the original Digistar as a training tool for astronauts, so realistic is its display.
~ ~ I think you’ve probably gathered by now that the whole family enjoyed this experience thoroughly. In fact, if my wee lass had had her way, we would have been paying the place a daily visit during our week’s stay in the Capital!
If you fancy this yourself, the Planetarium is only a minute’s walk from the Baker Street tube station, on the Marylebone Road.
You can even book your tickets online, to save you having to queue.
An experience not to be missed.
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