5 Out of this World Experiences At Walt Disney World
This week NASA landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars, a monumental achievement in humankind’s exploration of space. NASA also deployed the Ingenuity, the first helicopter ever used on Mars. These are accomplishments that Walt Disney would have loved. Space has always been a significant part of Walt Disney World. Here’s a look at five of our favorite space themed attractions past and present.
1. Mission: SPACE
Mission: SPACE opened in 2003. The attraction is a spectacular thrill ride that simulates interstellar flight. The “Green” version of the attraction simulates a mission around Earth, while the “Orange” edition takes Guests on a mission to Mars. To make it feel as though you are actually an astronaut, the attraction utilizes a huge centrifuge which generates 2.5 Gs, more than twice the force of every day gravity.
NASA played a role in the development of Mission Space. On NASA’s official webpage, they discussed their joy in participating in the project saying, “Part of NASA’s mission is to inspire the next generation of explorers…Therefore, when Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative force behind the planning, design, and construction of Disney parks and resorts around the world, approached NASA with the desire to put realism into its Mission: SPACE project, the Agency was happy to offer its insight.”
Imagineers consulted with Johnson Space Center’s Public Affairs Office as well as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as they created the attraction. Story Musgrave, a former NASA astronaut, also worked as a consultant for Mission: Space. She described the attraction as, “a place where guests can imagine our future in space and their role in it, walking in the footsteps of heroes and building on the wealth of technology we’ve developed to date.”
While you’re there, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Lunar Rover in the queue!
2. Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars
Long before Mission: Space, Walt Disney World took Guests on a Flight to the Moon. The attraction originally debuted as Rocket to the Moon in Disneyland. A few years later, the attraction changed its name to Flight to the Moon. After humans landed on the moon, the attraction changed yet again. The new incarnation was Mission To Mars.
The attraction opened at Walt Disney World in 1975. Guests started in a Mission Control Center to witness crew members monitoring a space flight . They then moved into a round flight cabin where they were able to experience a flight to Mars. Seats tilted backward and Guests were given an up close view of Mariner Valley.
Though the attraction closed in 1993, that was not quite the end of its life.In 2000, Buena Vista Pictures released a movie inspired by the attraction. Sharing the Mission to Mars name, the movie featured such names as Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Jerry O’Connell, and Tim Robbins. The film was produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures and directed by Brian de Palma.
3. Spaceship Earth
Though outer space is not the primary focus of Spaceship Earth in Epcot, it does feature in this attraction. After all, it tells the story of mankind, and one of our greatest accomplishments is undoubtedly that of journeying beyond our own planet. The mural on the outside of the attraction features astronauts, and as Guests travel through time in the attraction they are given a glimpse of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Walter Cronkite’s famous coverage of the landing is seen, and Neil Armstrong uttered his immortal words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Guests also travel through an area filled with countless stars and a projection of the Earth.
When discussing Epcot attractions, it’s impossible not to speak of Horizons. To many die hard Epcot fans, it’s the greatest attraction ever created. Like Spaceship Earth, space travel was not the primary focus of Horizons, but it did feature. Created as something of a sequel to the Carousel of Progress, Horizons gave Guests a glimpse into the future.
It began with a look back, taking Guests through visions of tomorrow as perceived by such geniuses as Jules Verne. It then took a look at the modern technologies that were being used to build the future before moving into what life might look like in the future. This included possibilities such as life under the sea and in space.
5. Space Mountain
You can’t talk about space attractions at Walt Disney World without discussing Space Mountain. It has been thrilling Guests of the Magic Kingdom since its opening in 1975. However, the attraction pre-dates Walt Disney World.
Though Walt Disney was originally opposed to thrill rides like roller coasters at his parks, the success of the Matterhorn Bobsleds convinced him that they could work. He asked John Hench to begin working on an indoor coaster, which was originally called Space Voyage. It was dubbed Space Mountain in 1966.
The idea was temporarily shelved due to technological limitations, but eventually found its first incarnation in Walt Disney World in 1975, four years after the resort’s opening.
Guests enter the queue, which takes them through an area with a “star map” before guiding them into the “star tunnel.” The queue then leads past a series of windows where planets, a model spaceship, and more can be seen.
Loading takes place in Starport: Seven Five. The rockets launch, propelling Guests into a frenetic trip as they see flashing blue lights, a blue orb, and a sky full of stars. A spaceship, like that seen in 2001; A Space Odyssey, can be seen, as well as astronauts floating in space. Guests also race past the planets and even get a glimpse of the Milky Way. That is, assuming you’ve got your eyes open and you aren’t too dizzy from all the action. Before the coaster comes to an end, the rockets travel through a wormhole. It’s an intense experience. Fortunately, as they say, in space…no one can hear you scream.
Those are our favorite space themed attractions. We should give honorable mention to ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Stitch’s Great Escape, and Astro Orbiter. Star Wars and Toy Story themed attractions (Alien Swirling Saucers and Buzz Light Year’s Space Ranger Spin) were considered, but really deserve their own category. What is your favorite space themed attraction in Walt Disney World?