Solar System Explorers

In this blog I will give updates about three space exploration missions described in earlier posts and report about two new ones.

New Horizons

I will start with New Horizons . In Close Encounter with Pluto I described how this spacecraft had a successful flyby with minor planet Pluto on 14 July 2015 and in an update New Horizons that it was on its way to 2014 MU69  , an object in the Kuiper belt.

A few days ago, on 1 January 2019, it had a flyby of Ultima Thule, as
2014 MU69 has been nicknamed. The distance between Earth and Ultima Thule is at the moment 6.6 billion km, never before has there been a close encounter at such a huge distance! (Distances in the picture are expressed in Astronomical Units, 1 AU = 150 million km)

During the brief flyby, New Horizons collected about 7 gigabytes of data, which in the coming months will be sent back to Earth. Radio signals take more than 6 hours to reach Earth, the 15 Watt transmitter can send ~ 500 bits per second, it may take 20 months.

Here are the first images. Left a vague color image, middle a more detailed black and white one, right the merger of the two, a kind of reddish snowman, size about 31 km. As was already expected, Ultima Thule is a so-called contact binary, it consists of two halves, now dubbed Ultima (the larger one) and Thule.

Mars InSight

A few months ago I wrote a blog Landing on Mars, about the Mars InSight spacecraft. Mission of this spacecraft is to study the interior structure of Mars. It has now deployed the seismometer, to detect Marsquakes.

Next month InSight will start drilling into the surface of Mars.

Hayabusa2

As I reported in my blog Hayabusa2 , it came as a surprise that the surface of asteroid Ryugu was very rough and rocky. Here is a picture of Ryugu’s surface.


The first sampling touchdown, scheduled for October, was postponed until at least the end of this month. The engineers are still studying how to land the spacecraft safely.

The two tiny hopping Minerva rovers are still working correctly and have been renamed Hibou (French for Owl) and Owl. If you are curious about the reason, read this: Naming our MINERVA-II1 rovers ūüėČ .. Don’t think that scientists have no sense of humor ūüėČ

Osiris Rex

When I wrote my blog about Hayabusa2, I was unaware of another mission to send a spacecraft to an asteroid, collect some material and bring it back to Earth. It is an American one, the Osiris Rex mission. Here is some information:

Launched 8 September 2016 with as destination the asteroid 101955 Bennu. Bennu is even smaller than Ryugu, about 500 m diameter. In December 2018 Osiris Rex reached Bennu and on 31 December it fired its thrusters to go into orbit. It will remain there for the next two years, studying the asteroid and it will try to acquire at least 60 gram of regolith (the surface material of Bennu) in a procedure very similar to Hayabusa’s.

Here is an artist impression of Osiris approaching Bennu, with the sampler horn extended.

And here is an image of Bennu, taken by Osiris.

Planned return date is 24 September 2023.

One aspect of the mission is worth mentioning here. OSIRIS is an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security. Why security? Because Bennu is a potentially hazardous object, it is possible it might hit Earth in the future. Don’t worry, not in our time, but possibly between 2175 and 2199. The uncertainty is there because the orbits of these “small” asteroids are influenced by many factors, for example the disturbing influence of the other planets. But also the effect of heating and cooling by the sun light, the Yarkovsky effect  and it is this effect that Osiris will study. (Forget about this if you find it too complicated… ūüôā )

Chang’e-4

China confirmed its role as global player in space exploration on 3 January 2019, when it landed for the first time in history a spacecraft on the far (“dark”) side of the Moon. The Chang’e 4 was launched on 7 December 2018 and consists of a lander and a rover, the Yutu-2. The set-up and landing procedure were similar to the Mars Pathfinder mission, after a powered descent of the lander to the Moon surface, the rover rolls down a ramp (see my Landing on Mars post).

Here is an image of the Yutu-2, taken by Chang’e 4, just after deployment.

Compared with the missions to Mars and the asteroids, a Moon mission has the advantage that the destination is ~ 384.000 km away from Earth, communication signals take only a bit more than one second. However, for a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, there is a problem, the Moon itself will block signals to Earth!

China has found an elegant solution for this problem: a separate satellite has been launched, the Queqiao, a few months before the Chang’e 4 launch. This communication satellite is now in a lunar orbit and will transmit the signals of the spacecraft to Earth and vice versa.

Actually the Queqiao is not orbiting the Moon, but orbiting the L2 Lagrange point, about 60.000 km above the far side of the moon. In my blog Where does the Moon come from, I have discussed a bit the concept of Lagrange points, where the gravitational force of Moon and Earth are in balance. Too complicated to explain the details, check Wikipedia for Halo Orbits.

This infographic illustrates the Chang’e mission. The Chang’e 4 has landed in the Aitken basin, near the Moon’s South Pole. This huge impact crater is 2500 km in diameter and 13 km deep !

There is one amusing detail/mistake in this infographic. It looks like the rover has four headlights! Has the creator of the infographic assumed that you needed lights, because this is the dark side of the moon?

I will update this blog when there are new developments.

Taiping again

My third visit in 2018!  This time a bit longer than usual, first three nights in hotel Furama, then two nights in the Nest bungalow up Bukit Larut.

I took the 10:55 ETS train from Sentral and arrived 14:18 in Taiping, where my friends Lay Chun and Bok Kin were waiting for me. We had a late lunch together and chatted a lot about Taiping heritage. As the weather was rainy, they dropped me at my hotel,  and arranged to meet again the next morning.

After some rest, I walked in the evening to the Lake Gardens, to have a look at the second raintree, recently fallen down. Both trees fell down in that part of Jalan Pekeliling (Circular Road) that recently has been closed to traffic and is now called the Raintree Walk. A coincidence?

The trees have become a tourist attraction! Armed with my umbrella I walked to the Larut Matang food court for my dinner. I had popiah’s at the famous Omar Popiah stall (now renamed Jaffan Popiah). Delicious and value for money (RM 0.70 each).

Walking back to my hotel, I passed the floodlit clocktower, now tourism office, which I was planning to visit the next day. 

The next morning I met Dr Indra of the Ceylon Association. We had breakfast together and a look at the renovated Association building, one of the few successful restoration  projects in Taiping. Left the building as it looked in December last year, right the present situation

Since my last visit, a new fence has been erected. The interior still has to be refurnished. 

Nearby (corner of Jalan Taming Sari and Jalan Idris) an example of what unfortunately is more common in Taiping, the skeleton of a ruined building, waiting for its final destruction.

One of the plans I had for this Taiping trip, was to visit the history galleries of two famous Taiping schools, St George’s Institution and the King Edwards VII school.  Here is the beautiful facade of SGI. It is a Lasallian school.

At the school I met Lay Chun and Bok Kin. And Yeap Thean Hock, who had the key of the gallery, because it is not open to the general public.

The gallery was opened in 2015, when SGI  celebrated its centennial. Yeap, who was involved in the creation of the gallery, guided us around. An interesting collection of photographs and memorabilia.

After a char kway teow lunch with my friends in the Peace Hotel, we went to the recently opened Telegraph Museum, another example of a successful restoration.  

Both outside and inside it looks magnificent. The first telegraph lines in Malaya connected Taiping to Port Weld and to Kuala Kangsar, so it is apt that a museum about the history of telegraphy and telecommunications has been established here, in the old Post & Telegraph Office (1885).

I hope the museum will become a success, the collection is well presented but quite technical. And the ticket price is too high, RM 8 (15) for Malaysians (non-Malaysians). Compare that with the National Museum in KL, RM 2 (5) or the Perak Museum in Taiping, RM 2 for everybody.

Around the corner the former Topo and Survey Office (1891), also a few years ago beautifully renovated. It housed the First Galleria until a few years, now a signboard says that it is the Galeri Perbandaran (Town Gallery), it looks empty and closed.

My next stop was the Tourism Office in the Old Clock Tower (1890). During my last visit it was closed “for renovation”, now it was open, a friendly young lady was mopping the floor because it had been raining and the roof was leaking (!).

I asked her if there was a Taiping heritage trail leaflet, she told me that it was out of stock, but she had a tourist map of Taiping. It showed all the traffic lights (!) and had a list of tourist attractions, some of them (13, 14, 17) not existing anymore.

I appreciated her attitude, she can not help it that this “Tourism Office” is pretty useless at the moment and looks more like an antique shop.

I realise that this blog is a bit pessimistic and sombre, I can’t help it. Taiping is still my favourite “second hometown” in Malaysia, but a Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town) , as it proudly promotes itself? I don’t think so. A Town of Past Glory would be a better epithet.

Take for example the Central Market, Malaysia’s best preserved example of a 19th century market building (1884/1885). What will be its future? Hopefully not changed into a Central Market, KL-style!

Of course there is some good news too, like the renovation of the well-known Ipoh Bakery. Here two photos, one earlier this year during the restoration and the final result.

One reason for this Taiping visit was that I wanted to meet my friend ST Lee, living in Singapore but with a keen interest in Taiping Heritage, where he owns a beautifully renovated house in Barrack Road.

I met him, his sister and her friends for a nice dinner at the Chinese Recreation Club (excellent food!) and the next morning for breakfast at my favourite Chee Cheong Fun stall of Mr Tong, together with Yeap Thean Eng.

After our breakfast we went to the King Edwards VII school. Yeap, the president of the Taiping Heritage Society, had warned us already that the history gallery might be closed, because the building where it was housed, was infested by termites.

But I still was shocked by what I saw. Yes, the century old raintrees are still impressive, but the iconic building is locked and cordoned off.

How can this have happened? And what will be done about it? No history gallery, but I was told that there exists one in a different building of King Edwards. Will check during my next visit.

Opposite the school there are a few buildings which are in a much worse condition. Five years ago I have published a blog post, Shame on Taiping, about these buildings, the Town Rest House (1894) and the former Perak Railway Building (1885/1893). Both buildings abandoned and slowly going down the drain.

Here is the Perak Railway Building, later housing various government offices. You can just enter, if you don’t mind meeting an occasional squatter. I explored the buildings this time with my friend Amril and took many pictures. I am planning to write a separate post about these buildings and the Resthouse. I have visited them almost every time I was in Taiping.

And this is the Rest House, in slightly better condition, at least the floor boards are still there.

Incomprehensible that in front of the Resthouse there is still a signboard about the Rest House , one of the “Firsts” of Taiping and part of the Taiping Heritage Trail. What will a tourist think when he follows this trail and sees this building?

Early afternoon Aric arrived from KL, we went to Kamunting for Assam Laksa, one of his favourite dishes, he is always looking for new stalls and collecting the info on his Assam Laksa website. This stall was not very special (pretty awful according to Aric).

We had much better food that evening, with ST Lee and his sister, in vegetarian restaurant Teik Ee, Jalan Tupai.

After the busy days in Taiping, it was time to relax. The next morning we picked up our friends Paul and Fahmi from the station and drove to the jeep station of Bukit Larut. From there with the 4WD to the Nest, where we were warmly welcomed by Suet Fun and Peter. They have really done a wonderful job, I love the colonial atmosphere.

And the food, Suet Fun is a creative cook. It was quite chilly, with occasional rain, we were the only guests that night, and spent the rest of the day doing nothing ūüėČ

Evening view. Left Gunung Bubu, about 20 km away

The next morning I took pictures of some beautiful “creatures of the night”

After breakfast and some droning by Aric, we walked up the hill until the Cottage bungalow, the oldest bungalow of Maxwell Hill, now out of bounds because it is part of the telecom installation.

We were back in time for lunch, where a group of nice ladies had arrived, former school mates of Suet Fun.

In the afternoon we walked down to the “Sixth Mile”, looking forward to a cup of tea in the Cafeteria, but it was closed already. Misty weather, very scenic.

The evening dinner was exquisite and the company pleasant.

The next morning the weather had changed, blue sky, nice views of the plains and the Straits. Compare with the evening picture above.

Aric did some more droning. In this short video you can see how the Nest is surrounded by jungle, with Taiping deep down and far away the coastline.

Reluctantly we had to leave, our jeep was taking us down at 11am. Still enough time to take more pictures. Looking forward already to a next visit.

On our way back to KL, we had lunch in another Assam Laksa stall, near Bukit Gantang. Much better quality!

It was again a very rewarding visit, although it must be clear to the reader that I am rather pessimistic about what is (not) happening in Taiping. The authorities may claim that Taiping is a Bandar Warisan, but I miss a sense of real commitment.

In my April blog I quoted from the Rough Guide (digital version):

Nowadays, bypassed by the North‚ÄďSouth Expressway and replaced in administrative importance by Ipoh, Taiping is declining gracefully, its streets lined with tattered architectural mementoes of its glory days.

Maybe I just will accept that, of course it has its own charm.

Landing on Mars

Landing a spacecraft on the planet Mars is not a piece of cake!

After several failed attempts the first successful landing took place in 1976, when two(!) spacecrafts, the Viking 1 and 2, landed safely on the surface of the Red Planet. And a Red Planet it was. Here are the first (color) pictures taken, left by the Viking 1, right by the Viking 2

The next successful landing was more than 20 years later, the Mars Pathfinder in 1997. The lander contained a small separate vehicle, a Mars rover, that could independently explore the surface. Here you see the Sojourner, after it had just rolled down from the Pathfinder. It is a tiny vehicle of 63 x 48 x 28 cm and with a mass of about 12 kg.

The next mission was the Mars Exploration Rover in 2004. Two separate missions actually, landing two rovers on Mars, the Spirit and the Opportunity. Both missions were very successful, the two rovers were planned to operate for 90 Sol’s (a Sol is a Martian solar day), but Spirit remained active until 2010 and Opportunity until June this year. Actually they are still trying to contact Opportunity, hoping it survived the huge dust storm that raged on Mars this year. Check this update for the latest info.

Here is an artist impression of the Opportunity rover. Compared with the Sojourner this is a big boy..:-) , 2.3 x 1.6 x 1.5 m, mass 180 kg. Until the loss of signal on Sol 5111 (June 10, 2018) it had traveled 45.16 km.

Four years later, in 2008, the Phoenix landed on Mars, for the first time a landing in the polar region. It confirmed the existence of water ice on Mars. Here is an artist impression of the Phoenix landing. Mass about 350 kg

In 2012 the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission landed a rover on Mars, the Curiosity, which is still active at the moment. Dimensions 2.9 x 2.7 x 2.2 m. mass 900 kg.

This photo shows the difference in size. In the foreground the Sojourner, left the Opportunity and right the Curiosity.

The last successful landing took place two weeks ago, 26 November 2018, when the InSight lander touched the surface of Mars. Diameter of the lander 1.5 m (without its solar panels), mass 360 kg.

Main mission is to get more information about the interior of the planet. A seismometer will record “marsquakes” and a “drill”¬† designed to burrow as deep as 5 m, will measure the heat flow from the interior. Here is an artist impression of the lander with the solar panels deployed. Foreground left the seismometer, right the drill.

Here is a map of Mars with the location of the eight successful landings.

More than half of all missions failed, for example the Beagle 2 in 2003 and the Schiaparelli in 2016.  For a full report , see the Wikipedia article Mars Landing.

Why is landing on Mars so difficult and risky?

Let us look in more detail at what is called the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) phase of a  Mars mission. This phase starts when the spacecraft enters the atmosphere of Mars and ends about 6-7 minutes later, when it lands on the surface.

For the MSL (Curiosity) mission in 2012, NASA created a fascinating YouTube video: 7 Minutes of Terror, in which scientists and engineers explain how many things can go wrong in this phase, while they can only watch helplessly. Watch the video, it takes only 5 minutes and gives a better explanation than I can provide here…:-)

But let me try. I will concentrate on the Curiosity lander because until now it is by far the most complicated mission of all.

The atmosphere of Mars is very thin, but the spacecraft enters with a high velocity of about 20.000 km/h and would be destroyed if it was not protected by a heat shield. Here is an artist impression of the so-called aeroshell in which the Curiosity (and all other landers) is safely stowed away. It consists of a backshell and a heat shield.

Here is the aeroshell in the assembly hall. The diameter is 4.5 m. You can see the Curiosity inside the backshell. On top of the backshell is the cruise stage which controls the spacecraft during the cruise from Earth to Mars.

An exploded view of the aeroshell. From left to right the cruise stage, the backshell, the descent stage, the Curiosity rover and the heat shield.

All Mars landing missions have three parts, two of which are basically the same: 1. slowing down by atmospheric friction and  2. further speed reduction by a parachute. You need one more step, because the Martian atmosphere is so thin that a parachute can not reduce the speed to (almost) zero at ground level. One way or another, you need (retro) rocket power for the last part

When the spacecraft is a lander, the “easiest” way is to provide it with retro-rockets. After the lander detaches from the backshell, it will unfold its legs and use its rockets to land. See the picture above of the Phoenix. The InSight used the same solution. Here is a picture of the InSight landing.

Rovers have to move around, so it doesn’t make sense to burden them¬† with the extra weight of these rockets. That’s why for the Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity another solution was developed. Put the retro-rockets in the backshell, lower the rover on a tether connected to the backshell,¬† protect it with airbags(!), use the rockets until almost zero speed, then drop the rover. Here is a collage of what it would look like for a Martian observer. Left, the airbags are already inflated, the rover is still hanging under the backshell, which is retro-firing. Middle, the rover has touched the surface but is still bouncing many times, before it comes to rest (right). Then the airbags will deflate and the rover is ready for action. Here is an animation of the landing of the Spirit rover.

The Curiosity is too heavy and voluminous for this airbag technique, so a spectacular new (and expensive) solution was developed. A sky crane!

Here is¬† a schematic view of the EDL process for the Curiosity. The first phase, atmospheric braking, looks normal, but there is a difference. Before the aeroshell enters the atmosphere at an altitude of 125 km, with a velocity of 20.000 km/h,¬† some mass is ejected one sided (“Cruise Balance Device Separation”). The resulting “unbalance” has as effect that the aeroshell will not move ballistically (like a projectile) but can be “steered” a bit through the atmosphere. The Martian atmosphere has turbulence,¬† storms, pressure differences etc, affecting the trajectory of the aeroshell, resulting in a considerable uncertainty in the final landing location.¬† The “hypersonic aero-maneuvering” reduces this uncertainty, important for Curiosity which had to land close to the rim of¬† the Gale crater.

At an altitude of 10 km from the ground, when the velocity is about 1500 km/h, a huge parachute (diameter 17 m!) is deployed, slowing down the aeroshell further. The heat shield is ejected 20 seconds later. From that moment,¬† using radar, the exact altitude can be measured, and the precise time when the descent stage & rover have to detach from the backshell. The descent stage starts firing the retro-rockets, first to move horizontally away from the backshell and the parachute. Meanwhile the rover is lowered 7.5 m¬† on cables, it deploys its wheels, while still connected through an “umbilical cord with the descent stage. Here is an artist impression.

                                                                                                                                             As soon as the rover touches the ground, the connecting cables are cut and the descent stage will fly up and away, to crash a few hundred meters from the rover

Curiosity has landed!¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† All this¬† (and numerous details I have skipped) must happen¬† in less than 7 minutes. Seven minutes of terror, because everything is automatic. If something goes wrong, nobody can do anything. Besides, the radio signals back to Earth take about 14 minutes, so, when Mission Control gets the message that the spacecraft has entered the atmosphere, it has actually already landed (or crashed….)¬†Here is an animation of the Curiosity landing. Spectacular.

Compared with the Curiosity mission, the landing of InSight was a lot simpler, basically the same as the Phoenix in 2008. The mission of InSight is to study the interior of Mars, the precise landing location is less important, as long as the surface is flat. Therefore no “guided entry” through the atmosphere was needed. The InSight is also much lighter (360 kg)¬† than the Curiosity (900 kg), so it was decided to provide the lander itself with rockets.

Although the EDL phase for the InSight was 6 minutes,¬† the catchy description “7 Minutes of Terror” was again used in the media¬† for this mission…:-) The BBC:¬† ¬†¬†Nasa’s Mars InSight mission heads for ‘7 minutes of terror’

Of course it is still a major technological achievement! NASA published a very good explanation of InSight’s EDL phase:¬† InSight landing on Mars .

Here are three pictures taken by the InSight. The lander has two cameras, the Instrument Context Camera is a fisheye camera, mounted underneath the lander deck. In the first picture (left), taken a few minutes after landing, the lens is still protected by a transparent cover, because of the dust whirled up by the rockets. In the right picture the cover has been removed. and as you can see, still a lot of dust has managed to crawl under the cover and stick to the lens. Unfortunate, although the images will still be usable.

The second camera is mounted on a robotic arm, Here is a superb picture taken by this camera. The scientist are very happy with the sandy, rock-free location. The reddish box is the seismometer which later will be deployed after the best location has been determined.

The latest news about the InSight mission can be found here

 

A meeting of pensionados

In 1976 I started teaching physics at the Snellius school in Amstelveen. I was 32 year old and had just graduated from the Free University in Amsterdam. Left I am defending my thesis, right I am teaching my students, in a different outfit. And yes, my hair was long..:-)

Here is a photo of the school team in 1990-91. After a merger with other public secondary schools in Amstelveen, the school was renamed Nieuwer Amstel school. I am wearing contact lenses and have less hair.

Two years later. Can you find me?

This photo is from 1995-1996. I am wearing a brown jacket.

The next year, 1996-97, was my last regular teaching¬† year.¬† Here is my last “Lerarenagenda”, I still have the complete collection ūüôā

The following years, until 2002, I worked part-time at my own alma mater, the Free University, on education-related topics. In 2002, at the age of 58, I became a full-time pensionado..:-)

So, it is more than 20 years ago that I was in daily contact with my colleagues, although several of them have become friends, whom I meet regularly when I am back in the Netherlands.

One of them told me in May that there was a plan to organise a reunion of pensionados, who had retired from one of the schools which now, after another merger, form the Amstelveen College.

The date proposed was 5 October, and I was so eager to attend this reunion that I decided to prolong my yearly visit to the Netherlands a few weeks…:-)

In the afternoon of 5 October I went to the Amstelveen College, the old Snellius school building has been demolished quite a few years ago.

The meeting of pensionados was well organised. About sixty of them were present, basically from the schools that had merged into the Amstelveen College, but more than half of them had been working at the Snellius, so there were many familiar faces and fortunately in almost all cases I still could remember their name ūüôā

There was a short introduction about the present status of the Amstelveen College.

But of course the main interest of the attendees was social, meeting former colleagues and chatting about their shared past.

Left three colleagues who were already working for many years at the Snellius, when I arrived in 1976. The right picture shows me with a few colleagues of the former Casimir school, in the past the rival public school in Amstelveen.

It was a pity that there was no “official” photographer. In between conversations with former colleagues, I managed to take some pictures but they are not representative for the group. Here are my pictures.

During the meeting old photos , taken in the period 1976 to 1988, were shown on a big screen. They belong to the collection of Dick Vader, who worked at the Snellius during the 70s and 80s and who was (and still is) an avid photographer.

He has given me permission to use these photos and below you will find a¬† selection, with persons who also appear in the color pictures above. It will be an interesting exercise to compare the two sets and find out the corresponding images…:-)

I have cropped most photos to show only one specific person.

Because most attendees were busy chatting with each other, many of them may not have paid full attention to the photo presentation of more than 500 photos.

That’s why I have put a representative selection of these photos in a separate album Snellius 1976-1987¬†(text in Dutch)

It was a very successful meeting, worthy of a repeat.

 

Versatile Perak

In my opinion Perak is the most interesting state of Malaysia, regarding nature, culture and history. A rich history, many historical towns , numerous waterfalls. Nice food too..:-)

Recently I visited Perak with my friends Paul and Fahmi. We stayed two nights in the Cititel hotel in Ipoh.

On our way to Ipoh we first visited a waterfall near Sungkai, the Enggang waterfall. At the end of the road leading to the well-known Sungkai Hot springs, a clear trail starts, leading in about one hour to the waterfall.

The waterfall is not visible from the trail, but of course you can hear it.  We first arrived halfway the fall  (left picture). After some scrambling down the slope we managed to reach the bottom. (right picture)

We had visited this waterfall a couple of years ago. Not many people come here, the fall is still pristine! And the flow of water was very impressive this time.

After lunch in Sungkai, we continued to Ipoh, checked in into our hotel, took some rest and went out for dinner. Many times I have eaten in one of the famous chicken taugeh kwai teow places, but this time we were looking for halal food and an Ipoh friend had suggested a few suitable restaurants. The Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice turned out to be a good choice.

On our way back to our hotel, we passed a few interesting buildings. Left the Chua Cheng Bok building (1930s) in Art Deco style, recently painted in bright blue colors. Would you guess that the beautiful building in the right picture originally has been a Fire Station? It was built here in 1913 and upgraded in 1936. Served as Fire and Rescue Department until 1992.

For our breakfast next morning we went to the Halal Dimsum Cafe in Greentown another suggestion from my Ipoh friend. Very good dimsum!

On our program for the morning was another waterfall, the Lata Ulu Chepor, on the outskirts of Ipoh. It was a bit of  failure, I had forgotten to mark the locations of the two (minor) falls in my GPS, and we passed them without noticing them. The trail continued, might lead to a taller waterfall upstream, but we returned, found a nice place to have a bath. Crystal clear water.

I

I had in mind to visit another waterfall in the same region, but this hike had taken quite a lot of time, so we decided to skip it and go for lunch. Nasi Ganja! Using Google we had found the address. When we arrived there, we noticed a big crowd queuing, but no sign of Nasi Ganja. It turned out that this was the shop, all Ipoh people know it as nasi ganja, but the shop can not advertise with the name as ganja is an illegal drug. . Nice nasi kandar, apparently addictive…:-)

In the afternoon Paul and I explored Ipoh Old Town. Paul had published an album about Ipoh Heritage, so he could show me around. We started from our strategically located hotel.

Around the corner St Michael’s Institution, one of the famous¬† Ipoh schools, founded by the La Salle Brothers in 1912. The impressive building is from 1922.

Next to it the India Muslim Mosque. Construction started in 1909

Below left the entrance of the Royal Ipoh Club, records go back to 1895, but it may be even older. Right the High Court buildings, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback and built 1926-28.

Two other impressive buildings in Ipoh have also been designed by Hubback. Construction of the Town Hall started in 1914 and was completed two years later. Is is really a monumental building.

Opposite the Town Hall, the Railway Station, nicknamed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh by locals. Officially opened in 1917. The first floor used to be a hotel, the Majestic Station Hotel, and many years ago I have been staying there several times. It was already rundown at that time, dirty sheets, cockroaches. Now it is closed, although there still exists a website , promoting its¬† “superbly-comfortable accommodation”¬† !

Coming from the Railway Station, the Birch memorial is located behind the Town Hall. J.W.W. Birch was the first British resident of Perak, assassinated in 1875 at Pasir Salak by Malay noblemen, Dato Maharaja Lela and Dato Sagor.

The monument, also a clock tower, was erected in 1909 by his son, E.W. Birch, at that time the (much more popular) resident of Perak. Nice detail: the roads left and right of the monument were originally named Station Road and Post Office Road. After independence they have been renamed. The new names? Jalan Dato Maharajalela and Jalan Dato Sagor !

Another interesting detail.¬†On¬† four civilisation panels around the tower, 44 famous figures in the world history are portrayed, for example Buddha, Newton, Confucius, Galilei etc. One of the figures¬† has been painted over. Guess who…:-)

Two bank buildings. Left the impressive building of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank (1931), right the Chartered Bank (1924)

There are more historical bank buildings in the same district, for example the Mercantile Bank (1931) , designed in Art Deco style by Iversen.Now it is housing the Elken company, note the ugly banner on the facade. The OCBC bank is now occupying the building of the Straits Trading Company (1907).

The Perak Hydro building (1930s) belonged to the Perak River Hydro-Electric Company who built the Chenderoh dam in the Perak river, the oldest reservoir in Malaysia

Chung Thye Phin was born in Taiping and became a wealthy tin miner and (the last) Kapitan Cina. The building below carried his name and was built in 1907. In its early days it used to be a medical hall. Beautiful facade.

Walking around in Ipoh Old Town, I was surprised about the numerous interesting heritage buildings. Generally well preserved.

At first I thought that this could be the exception: overgrown decaying shoplots. But I was mistaken…:-)

Actually it is part of Kong Heng square. Not overgrown, but modern vertical gardens..:-), The first floor houses  Sekeping Kong Heng , will try to stay there during my next visit

Three more buildings. Left the Han Chin Pet Soo building, now housing the Hakka tin mining museum.¬†Originally the home of the Hakka Tin Miners Club, founded in 1893 and rebuilt in 1929. In the middle a nameless house, under renovation. And right the building of the FMS Bar and Restaurant, an icon from Ipoh’s glorious past. A couple of years ago it was hoped that the glory would come back after a ambitious restoration. But during my visit it was closed without a sign of life. A failed project?

And here are two more buildings from a different era. Left the Labrooy House, modernist design, completed between 1960 and 1961. Right from the same period, the first parking garage of Malaysia!

Finally here are two street views of Leech Street (now Jalan Bandar Timah). Beautiful. Followers of my blog know that I love Taiping as my 2nd hometown. Pity you can not find similar street views in Taiping ūüôĀ

To be honest, I was very impressed by the heritage of Ipoh Old Town. Taiping’s history starts earlier, it boasts on its many “Firsts” and is promoted as Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town), but when you compare the two towns, Ipoh deserves this title more.

Of course I had to walk through Concubine Lane. After reading negative reports about how tourism had destroyed the character of this street,¬† I was prepared for the worst. Actually it was not too bad, not worse than Petaling Street in KL…:-)

Two year ago I visited Ipoh to see the Zacharevic murals, see my blog Ipoh Murals. Mural Art has been mushrooming all over Malaysia the last few years and also in Ipoh there has been copycatting. Not  really a positive development.

We had dinner our last night in another Chinese Muslim restaurant, this time Fahmi’s discovery. Roast duck, Mongolian chicken, bitter gourd with salted egg. A nice, filling meal!

The next morning, before checking out,  a view from my room in Cititel.

We had breakfast in the Medan Selera near the BIrch memorial with soft-boiled eggs on toast, an Ipoh specialty. Yummie!

Our plan was to visit the Hakka Tin mining museum in the Han Chin Pet Soo building, but they have only guided tours and the timing was not suitable for us. So we started our trip back to KL.

Our first stop was at the Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge. I have visited this gargantuan relic from the tin mining era several times in the past, was able to explore the dredge freely, climbing up to the upper level, sometimes  bit scary, but fascinating. Since a few years the situation has changed, there were plans to make it a No 1 tourist attraction and it was closed, you could only see it from the outside.

Friends had told me that it was now open to the public, and I wanted to have a look. I was a bit shocked by the ticket price, RM 10 for Mykad holders, RM 20 (!) for foreigners. Senior citizens get a 50 % discount, but still too expensive, as at the moment only the (less interesting) lower level is accessible. Although the guided tour was informative, better wait until the whole dredge can be visited.

Left the ambitious development plan for the Tanjung Tualang dredge. Rather unrealistic and completely over the top, in my opinion. Right a simpler version. I got the impression from our guide that the project has been put on hold after the recent change in government. Good, the dredge itself can become a tourist attraction, like Kellie’s castle, no need¬† to surround it with all kind of nonsense.

During my earlier visits the dredge pontoon was tilting because of leakage, that has been stabilised now. Right a small canteen, closed when we visited the dredge, but probably more busy during weekends. There is also  small museum.

Our next target was the Salu waterfall, 6 km north of Kampar. Easy access, two waterfalls. Suitable for senior citizens..:-)

From the carpark a cemented path leads in a few minutes to the lower Salu fall. 

The upper fall can be reached in about 15 minutes via a clear trail. There are more waterfalls upstream, but these require jungle  trekking.

Our last destination was the Tin Mining museum in Kampar. Until a few weeks ago I had never heard about this museum, but apparently it exists already for seven years! It was a pleasant surprise.

As the signboard says, it is mainly dedicated to open tin mining, using gravel pumps.Here is an interesting pdf file about Gravel Pump Tin Mining. Impressive machinery, I understand there are guided tours, which would really have been useful here.

Besides the machinery, there is a big hall with lots of information. A few scale models of tin mines give  a good impression of the process.

Both inside and outside the halls dioramas have been created of the various activities related to tin mining. Also here a guide would be useful, or leaflets with information.

After our museum visit we had lunch in the mamak next to it, and then it was time to go home.

Versatile Perak!

Hayabusa2

In 2014 I have published several posts about Rosetta, the spacecraft that has explored the comet 67P. Click here for my reports. I am very interested in these Close Encounters between spacecraft and celestial bodies. Here is a new one, the Japanese Hayabusa mission. Actually there are two Hayabusa spacecrafts, the first one was launched in 2003, the second one in 2014.

Their mission was basically the same: Fly to an asteroid,  land on it, collect some asteroid material, then fly back to Earth to deliver the collected material.  An ambitious project!

Hayabusa was the first spacecraft ever that has landed on an asteroid and returned to earth with some asteroid material. Not as much as was hoped for, because the mission encountered quite a few technical problems. Therefore a second, improved Hayabusa2 spacecraft, was designed and launched on 3 December 2014.

Here is an artist impression of the Hayabusa2. The boxlike spacecraft has dimensions of 1 x 1.6 x 1.25 m and a mass of 609 kg

Destination? A tiny asteroid,¬†1999 JU3.. In an earlier post I have explained the complicated naming of the minor planets. The J stands for the first half of May, U stands for 20 and the subscript 3 means 3×25. So this asteroid was the 95th minor planet, discovered in the first half of May 1999. This provisional name is replaced by a number and sometimes a name, in this case¬†162173 Ryugu. It is the 162173th minor planet and the name has been suggested by JAXA, the Japanese counterpart of NASA.

Here is the route followed by Hayabusa2 to Ryugu.The Earth orbit in blue, Ryugu in green and the Hayabusa2 in purple.

It reached the asteroid, 3.5 year after the launch,  on 27 June 2018, . One day earlier it took this picture of Ryugu, from a distance of about 40 km

Properties of Ryugu:  not really spherical, diamond-shaped, a diameter of ~ 900 m and a rotation period  of 7.6 hours. The gravitation at its surface is about 80.000 times smaller than on Earth!

Until December 2019 Hayabusa2 will stay near Ryugu, at a distance of 20 km (HP, home position), where the gravitational attraction of the asteroid is almost nothing.  From there it will investigate the properties of the asteroid and several times it will descend for a short time to the asteroid.

On 20 September the spacecraft started a slow, controlled descent and one day later, 55 m above the surface of Ryugu, it dropped two Minerva rovers. While they were falling down to the surface, Hayabusa2 ascended to HP. Both rovers are working correctly, a huge relief for the scientist,  They are really tiny, diameter 18cm, height 7 cm, mass 1.1 kg Here is an artist impression.

Both rovers have multiple cameras and temperature sensors on board They can move around by “hopping” and do this autonomously! Wheels like for example the Mars rover has, would not work in this low gravity world.¬† One hop can take 15 minutes and move the rover horizontally ~15 m.

This is a picture of the Ryugu surface, taken by  one of the rovers.The scientists are surprised that the surface is so rough.

On 3 October, the spacecraft descended again to Ryugu, to drop the MASCOT lander, developed by the German and French space agencies. A bit larger and heavier, size of a shoebox, mass ~10 kg. Contains cameras and various scientific instruments. No solar cells like the two rovers, but battery operated, able to provide power during 16 hours. Also able to hop, like the rovers.

This is an artist impression of the MASCOT, leaving its container in Hayabusa2.

During the descent, Hayabusa2 was able to follow the lander. The yellow line is the actual path, the blue line is the projection on Ryugu’s surface. The times are given as “hhmmss”. After it hits the surface, it bounced several times. During the last part (straight blue line),no pictures were taken. The location 02:14:04 is the final landing place. The separate location 00:55:09 +1 is taken one day later and proves that MASCOT has managed to hop. The shadow is from Hayabusa2

Here are two images taken by MASCOT itself. Left while descending to the surface and yes, that is its own shadow top right. Right after landing, again showing a very rough surface.

After the successful landing, MASCOT started to use its scientific instruments (spectrometer, magnetometer and radiometer) and sent the data back to Hayabusa2 within the limited timespan of 16 hours. Actually the batteries lasted one hour more, a bonus. It hopped two times.

Until now the mission has been very successful: two rovers and one lander have touched an asteroid for the first time in history!

What will be next? The main mission is to collect material from Ryugu and bring it back to Earth. How to do that? Here is a schematic view of Hayabusa2. Notice the .Sampler Horn at the bottom

This is the procedure: the Hayabusa2 will descend very slowly to the asteroid until the horn touches the surface. Then a small (5g) bullet will be fired inside the horn, hit the surface at high speed and surface particles will fly up and be collected at the top of the horn. Hopefully at least 0.1 gram, maximum 10 gram. This will be done at two different locations.

The third and last one is quite spectacular, an attempt to collect material below the surface. Here is another view of the bottom of the spacecraft. Next to the horn you see the Small Carry-on Impactor.

It is an explosive device, meant to create a crater in Ryugu, so that Hayabusa2 can collect the debris. Here is how it works . The explosive will deform the copper shield (2.5 kg) into a projectile, that will hit the surface at a speed of 2 km/s, creating a crater with a diameter of several meters

By the way,¬† this is where the idea may have come from…:-)

The explosion must of course not damage Hayabusa2 itself! The  scientists have found this spectacular solution:

  1. Hayabusa2 approaches the surface of Ryugu.
  2. It releases the bomb and also a camera.
  3. Then it moves up and sideward to hide itself behind the asteroid!
  4. The bomb explodes and creates a crater.
  5. The camera takes images and sends them to Hayabusa2.
  6. Hayabusa2 appears again and descends above the crater.
  7. The horn will collect debris of the explosion

Here is an artist impression, where Hayabusa2 is descending above the newly formed crater.

The first touchdown of the spacecraft itself was planned for end October, but it has been postponed until January 2019.

Why?

Because the surface of Ryugu is much rougher than expected!

The horn of Hayabusa2 extends about 1 m, therefore the touchdown area should not have rocks higher than 50 cm. The touchdown area must also have a diameter of at least 100 m because of navigational accuracy.

Such a location could not be found on Ryugu!. Below is the one finally chosen (red circle) free of rocks, but ONLY 20 m in diameter!

There is also some good news. The earlier launching of the rovers and the MASCOT showed that navigation (with laser range finders) could be done more accurately (within 10 m), at least until the altitude of 50 m above the surface.

In the next weeks, two rehearsals will be performed, going lower, to find out whether tis accuracy can be maintained until touchdown.

The first real touchdown is now planned for January next year. There is enough time because Hayabusa2 will stay at Ryugu until December 2019.

All this is happening at about 300 million km away from Earth. Amazing. Keep in mind that communication between Earth and the spacecraft takes about 15 minutes, one way!

The German Space Agency has published a very instructive YouTube video, illustrating what I have tried to explain in this blog. Not only about the MASCOT lander as the title suggests.  Worth viewing more than one time!

If more news becomes available I will write an update

 

The Marker Wadden

Would you like to go with me to the Marker Wadden, my youngest brother asked me during my recent visit to the Netherlands.  The Marker Wadden? I knew about the Wadden Islands and the Wadden Sea, but had never heard about the Marker Wadden.

He explained to me that it was a project of Natuurmonumenten, the Dutch Nature Society, to create a number of artificial islands in the Markermeer.

Ok, I knew about the Markermeer. Have a look at the left map, taken from the informative Zuiderzee Works entry in Wikipedia. After closing the Zuiderzee with the Afsluitdijk in 1932, it was renamed IJsselmeer, and gradually changed from a salt water lake into a fresh water one. Large parts of the lake were reclaimed to form polders. The original plan was to reclaim also the Markermeer, and a dike, the Houtribdijk, was already built between 1963 and 1975.

But the reclamation plans changed, and in 1986 it was decided that the Markermeer will remain a lake. When you look at the right picture, a Google Earth map of the same region, you will notice the different color of the water in the Markermeer. Because the lake is separated by a dike from the IJsselmeer, there is a lot of siltation, resulting in turbid water. This has a negative impact on the aquatic flora and fauna.

In 2012 Natuurmonumenten,  with other partners, presented an ambitious plan, to create  a couple of artificial islands in the Markermeer, using sand and silt from the bottom. The islands will not be used for human habitation, but will become a bird sanctuary.

The project has been accepted and is now in progress, with support of several sponsors. In the left picture you can see the location of these Marker Wadden relative to the Houtribdijk. The right images shows more details, the north-west island has a harbour and some infrastructure (footpaths and walkways), this island will be accessible to the public (but only if you have your own boat!). The other islands will be strictly nature reserves.

To show these Marker Wadden to the general public, Natuurmonumenten organised a temporary ferry service during the weekend of¬† 8-9 September and my brother bought tickets, for of course I eagerly accepted his invitation…:-)

The ferry left from the Bataviahaven in Lelystad. We arrived early, so we could have a nice seat and a cup of coffee. Many interested people, often  armed with binoculars and cameras.

After about 45 minutes we arrived at the jetty of the Marker Wadden

There were two walking routes on the island, 2.5 km and 6 km. We took the shorter one. At the start it looked like a crowd, but it spread out quite fast.

Work is still going on, but this was a weekend, so no activity.

Here I am posing as a climber of the Marker Wadden mountains…:-)

There is a lookout tower, solidly built.

From the balcony at the top you have a good view of the surroundings.

It was an interesting walk, In many places the work was still in full swing.

A warning sign for dangerous quicksand.

Regarding plant life, the philosophy of Natuurmonumenten is to let nature take Its course.Slowly¬† plants will start growing, from seeds blown over by the wind from the surrounding polders. I have my doubts about the single patch of sunflowers I saw…:-). Could it be that somebody has bought¬† a packet of sunflower seed and sowed it here?

We walked over a nice walkway, sat down and had the sandwiches we had taken from home. In a few years time this will be a beautiful region.

It will also become a paradise for bird watchers. During our visit we did not see many birds, because it was  not the migratory season yet.

We spent a few hours on the island and then took the ferry back to Lelystad. A very nice outing.

 

Leiden 2018

Most of my life I have been living in Amsterdam, but I was born in Alphen aan den Rijn, a small town 15 km from Leiden. Of course I have been in Leiden many times in my youth, but I have never really explored the town.

Therefore, on the first Sunday in September, I  took the train to Leiden Central Station and visited the town. Leiden has a long history. It  received city rights in 1266 and flourished in the 16th and 17th century, because of the cloth industry. Here is a map of Leiden in 1690

And here is a Google Earth view from 2008. It is remarkable how the historic town center is still easily recognisable. The blue markers indicate some of the locations where I have taken pictures.

The 1690 map is full of interesting details, Click here for a large size image. Count the windmills on the city walls! And notice that numerous canals have nowadays been filled in to become roads.

These days only two windmills are left. The Valk mill will draw your attention when you walk from the station to the old town. The water in the foreground is one of the singels (moats) surrounding the 17th century town.

De Valk is a tower mill, built in 1743, replacing an older mill. In the past the miller was living in the mill with his family, nowadays it is an interesting museum. The mill is built so high to catch the wind. In the right picture you see the wheel to rotate the top of the mill in the direction of the wind. This is a cornmill and still operational

The lower floors show how in the past people were living here.

You have to climb many steep ladders to reach the top of the mill. The complicated machinery (wooden gears!) always fascinates me.

The second windmill on the ramparts is the mill de Put. Although there has been a mill here since 1619, several times rebuilt, it was destroyed in 1817. Only in 1983 the mill has been reconstructed and is now a museum. It is a so-called post mill, the whole mill structure can be rotated around a central axis.

The mill was under renovation when I visited Leiden. The bridge in the foreground is also a recent reconstruction of an old bridge. It is called the Rembrandt bridge, because not far from here Rembrandt, the famous Dutch painter, was born in 1606.

In a small park nearby there is information about him, with his statue, painting of course. All tourists want to have their picture taken here, and so did I…:-)

Both tourists and locals were enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. The cafe terraces, which in Leiden are often placed on floating pontoons, were crowded.

In the morning, the sky was incredibly blue. Left the monumental facade of the Stadstimmerwerf (town carpenter’s yard) built in 1612. Next to it the Doelenpoort (1645), in earlier days the entrance gate to the exercise grounds of the Schutterij¬†, a typical Dutch institution in those days. Many houses had characteristic stepped gables..

Leiden has the oldest university of the Netherlands, founded in 1575. It is still one of the  important ones, the royal family has been studying here.

This is the Academiegebouw, the oldest building in Leiden, in 1516 built as the chapel of a Dominican monastery. SInce 1581 it has been used by the university, nowadays mainly for ceremonial functions.

The Pieterskerk is the oldest church of Leiden, building started in 1121 and lasted hundreds of years.  It is within walking distance from the Academiegebouw and  a cortege of professors walks twice yearly from the university to the church, for the dies natalis (anniversary) and  for the opening of the Academic Year. An old tradition, this year the 443th time! When I visited Leiden, they were very busy in the church with preparations for the ceremony the following day.

I would really have loved to watch the procession. Here is a video taken during the dies natalis ceremony of 2016. Fascinating.

The church had a 110 m tall tower,which collapsed in 1512 and was never rebuilt. Not so easy to take an overall picture of this church, also because houses have been built against the church walls.

The interior of the late-gothic building is very impressive. Of course it was originally a Roman-Catholic church, but after the Reformation and the infamous Beeldenstorm in 1566 it became a Protestant church in 1572.

Many famous people were buried here (Jan Steen, Boerhaave), but I had no time to find their tombs. Just a few more pictures. The magnificent Van Hagerbeer organ is from 1643.

The Hortus Botanicus (botanical garden) of the Leiden University is the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. I had never before visited the Hortus, and spent quite some time there.

There are many greenhouses with tropical plants. Probably the most famous one is the Victoria amazonica, with leaves that supposedly can carry a  baby.

The park is  very attractive.  Left  a view of the singel, right the Japanese garden

Also in the garden is the Leiden Observatory. It is one of the oldest in the world, originally housed in the Academiegebouw. In 1860 it was moved to the Hortus and in 1974 to the science campus, outside the town center.

After my visit I had lunch in the Hortus cafe

Leiden has numerous “hofjes” and I visited three of them. A “hofje” is a courtyard with almshouses. Rich people in the 17th century founded such hofjes as a charity. The almshouses were meant for various groups, poor people, or spinsters, or foreigners without family, etc.

Nowadays they still have rules and regulations for the tenants. They are oases of tranquillity, many of them have free access , but you are expected to be quiet and not disturb the people living there.

Jean Pesijnhof (1683)

This hofje, near the Pieterskerk, was founded by the widow of Jean Pesijn. They came from France, had no children and the almshouses were meant for members of the Walloon Church. A beautiful, idyllic courtyard.

Eva van Hoogeveenhof (1652)

Eva came from a wealthy family and never married. As the inscription above the entrance gate says, she was a “virgo castissima et laudatissima” (Google for translation). In her will she had stated that the almshouses were meant for honest women, above 40 year old and unmarried..

Van der Speckhofje (1645)

Also know as St Pietershofje. A secluded one, you can easily miss the entrance gate.Founded by Pieter Gerritsz. Van der Speck. In his will he stated that four of the eight almshouses were meant for widows, the other four for elderly couples. Nowadays younger people are housed in this little gem.

The town hall of Leiden stood in the Breestraat as early as the Middle Ages. In 1596 it was given a new facade in Renaissance style to show the importance of the town. It still looks impressive, although it is “new”! In 1929 a devastating fire destroyed the town hall, leaving only a skeleton of the facade.¬† In 1932 it was rebuilt , the facade in the original style, the tower in a different location and the rest in modern style ( a design by Dudok was rejected, understandable, but still a pity!)

Some details of the facade

The Burcht of Leiden is a fortress built on an artificial hill, constructed in the 11th century, located where two tributaries of the Rhine come together.

Here is the south gate (1651). access is free, it is a pleasant park.

From the ramparts, you have a view of Leiden. Here two churched I had no time to visit, left the Hooglandse Kerk, a gothic church from the 15th century, right the Marekerk, built in classicist style and opened in 1649. The Hooglandse Kerk was of course built as a Catholic church and only after the Reformation transformed into a Protestant one. The Marekerk was designed as a Protestant church.

I could not resits the temptation to have Poffertjes, a traditional Dutch mini-pancake. Served with butter and sugar, not healthy, but so delicious.

With my interest in architecture, I could have spent many days in Leiden. The Lakenhal was built as a guild hall for cloth merchants and is now an important museum, but closed for renovation during my visit. The Hartebrugkerk is the first Catholic church in Leiden built after the Reformation.

The Koornbrug is from 1642. It was so named, because for many centuries corn was traded on this bridge

With its many singels and canals, Leiden looks a bit similar to Amsterdam. Here  is a collection of photos taken during my visit.

After a long day it was time to go back to Amsterdam. The central station is an attractive modern building from 1996.

Walking to the entrance of the station,  I came across a pavement decoration, which did not make much sense to me (left picture) . Until I walked past and watched it from the other side (right picture). A spectacular anamorphic work of art!

It was a very enjoyable day!

 

Good News for Modern Man

Under this title the Groninger Museum has organised an exhibition of works created by the American artist David LaChapelle.

I had never before heard about this artist, but when I saw the poster of the exhibition I was intrigued, so I decided to visit the museum during my recent visit to Groningen.

I had no idea why the exhibition was named Good News for Modern Man and did a Google search. Surprising result: in 1966 the American Bible Society published a “modern translation” of the New Testament under this title! Why did LaChapelle choose this title?¬†Time to find out more about him.

David LaChapelle (born in 1963) was 17 year old when he moved to New York, came in contact with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and in the following decades acquired fame as a fashion and celebrity photographer. His style was easily recognisable, exuberant colors, references to classical art. Technically perfect, often decorating and transforming his (analogue) color negatives.Sometimes controversial too.

Around 2007 he got fed up with the empty glamour and glitter of the consumerist society, moved to the island of Maui and started to create “fine art” photography…:-). Art with a Utopian vision of a post-industrial era, where men will live in harmony with nature: Good News For Modern Man.

I found it a fascinating exhibition. Took many pictures, would have taken more if I had known more about him. I show them here in more or less chronological order.

Burning down the house (1996), a portrait of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen (left) and his “muse” Isabella Blow. The castle in the background is real!

From left to right Lil’ Kim (1999), Death by Hamburger (2001) and¬† Self Preservation (1995). Lil’ Kim has Louis Vuitton tattoos, the Hamburger photo is actually a fashion ad for the shoes the model is wearing! It seems that David Bowie was not too happy with his portrait.

My Own Marilyn (2002) and¬† Amanda as Liz (Red) (2007) LaChapelle started his career in Andy Warhol’s Factory and of course knows about Warhol’s iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.¬† These portraits are based on real photos , both with transgender Amanda Lepore as model.

Evidence of a Miraculous Event (left)   Intervention (right)  . From  the series Jesus Is My Homeboy (2003)

The Last Supper (2003). Of course inspired by Da Vinci, and also part of the Jesus is my Homeboy series.

Deluge (2007). This work, inspired by Michelangelo’s Deluge in the Sistine Chapel marks a change in LaChapelle’s work

Cathedral (2007). Same series as Deluge, also referring to the Flood

American Jesus: Hold me, carry me boldly (2009)

The Rape of Africa (2009). Inspired by Botticelli’s Venus and Mars. Venus is personified here by Naomi Campbell.

The Raft of Illusion, Raging Toward Truth II (2011). Inspired by Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa. It is a collage, a work in progress, not often shown by LaChapelle

From left to right:  Concerning the Soul, Early Fall and Late Summer. From the series Earth Laughs in Flowers (2011)

Nativity (2012) from the Paradise series

Icarus (2012)¬†In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the inventor of a way to fly, using feathers and wax. In spite of his father’s warnings, Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and he fell down in the sea, where he drowned

Seismic Shift (2012), purchased by the Groninger Museum in 2018. It shows the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, ruined after an earthquake. Try to find the many works of art in this photo, by artists like Koons, Hirst, Warhol, and even LaChapelle himself…:-)

Self Portrait as House (2013)¬†An intriguing version of a self portrait. The various rooms in the house depict aspects of the artist’s personality

Gas Stations (2012)   Gaia (2011)

Kardashian Christmas Card (2013). Apparently the (in)famous Kardashian family spends every year tons of money for a “personal” Christmas Card. In 2013 it was LaChapelle’s turn, for 250.000(?) dollar

Land Scape series (2013) From a distance this may look like real refineries, but they are not. They are built from waste material like cans and straws in the artist’s studio. Click here for a video how LaChapelle did it: Land Scape part 1 and part 2¬†Amazing.

Secret Passage (2014) From the Paradise series

In his most recent series New World, LaChapelle imagines a world where many religions come together in harmony. The following pictures belong to this recent series

The First Supper (2015) If there is a Last Supper, there should also be a First Supper.

From left to right    News of Joy (2016), Jesus and Buddah under a tree (2017) and A New World (2017) 

Behold (2017)   Poster image of the exhibition

The exhibition can be visited until 28 October 2018.

Groningen 2018

When I am in the Netherlands, I always try to stay a few days in Groningen with my brother Ruud.¬† We usually spend a day in the countryside and this time we decided to visit the Menkemaborg. A “borg” is a manor house, typical for the province of Groningen. In the past there were many, now only less than twenty¬† survive, here is a list¬†of the existing borgs

On our way to the borg, we passed the small hamlet of Eppenhuizen with an attractive church. The church is not old, built in 1882 and no longer in use as church.¬†Surrounded by a graveyard with a “baarhuisje”, a mortuary.

The Menkemaborg was originally built in  the 14th century, but altered to its present form around 1700. Owned privately by the Alberda family until 1902, it was donated in 1921 to the Groninger Museum. It is surrounded by a moat and extensive gardens.

The interior of the borg has been furnished in the style of the 17-18th century. The result is beautiful, it gives the impression that the residents are away for a moment and can come back any time.

Only the ground floor and the basement are accessible to the public. The basement contains the kitchens and the servants quarters

There were two toilets, located outside the main building, flushing into the moat…:-). The lion is carrying the coat of arms of the family and the pedestal shows the year¬† that the Alberda family acquired the property and altered it.

The Schathoes was originally the farm belonging to the Menkemaborg. Now it is a restaurant where we had our lunch.

After our lunch we walked in the well-maintained gardens. There is a maze in this garden where we almost got lost…:-)

In Google Earth the Menkemaborg is clearly visible. When you enlarge tie image, you will notice the maze in the garden with an old plane tree in its center

My brother suggested to drive to the coast of the Waddenzee after our visit. On our way we passed another beautiful church, in Uithuizermeeden. The church is old, but in 1896 the church tower was destroyed by lightning and rebuilt the next year in this interesting neoclassical form. A real gem.

The Waddenzee is a Unesco World Heritage site and also a Ramsar site.

Dykes protect the low-lying lands against the seawater  At several places roads have to cross these dykes,  in these pictures you see the old wooden doors that can be closed

And of course you will find windmills in many places to pump the rainwater back to the sea. The windmill here is the Goliath , built in 1897. In the background many modern windmills which generate electricity.

When we stopped at the mill to take pictures, the miller told us that we could enter the mill and climb up, using steep ladders. After our visit she would have coffee and cake ready! Of course we accepted her invitation…:-)

This  type of windmill is called a bovenkruier, the top part of the mill can be rotated when the direction of the wind is changing.

The miller had lots of interesting stories to tell about the Goliath and her efforts to preserve the mill and keep it in mint condition. We asked if the name Goliath was a pun, but no it was the original name.¬† It was a pun that one of the huge new windmills nearby had been named the David…:-)

Personally I think the modern windmills are a form of horizon pollution, although in the picture below they fit quite naturally in the landscape.

The northern part of Groningen has a special charm. Look at this Google Earth View

It was a very rewarding outing!