While Walt Disney World® is home to many thrilling attractions, there is one that takes guests out of this world on an adventure like no other. Mission: SPACE® is located in Epcot®’s Future World East and offers guests the opportunity to enter into flight training on a mission to the red planet. Let’s check out what makes this attraction so awesome.
Disney always showed an interest in space – in 1955 the company aired the specials Men In Space, Man and the Moon, and Mars and Beyond which were all directed by Imagineer, Ward Kimball. The space race was on, and soon, it would come directly to Epcot®. Opening on October 9, 2003, Mission: SPACE® replaced Horizons which operated from October 1, 1983, through January 9, 1999. Horizons was a guest favorite, but in its last years only operated seasonally – thus a new thrill ride was a welcome attraction to Future World. There are several Horizons tributes in the form of the attraction’s previous logo – look for it in the center of the gravity wheel found in the queue and on the cash register in the gift shop!
After over 350,000 hours and hundreds of Imagineers’ contributions, Mission: SPACE® began previewing in the summer of 2003 under the sponsorship of HP®. I was one of those lucky guests who got to experience the attraction early, along with my parents. None of us really knew what we were getting into, but we figured why not? It was a sneak peak of a new attraction after all! I had a blast, my parents, not so much. They were both immediately queasy and spent the rest of the day feeling terrible and not enjoying Epcot®. Many guests soon realized the intensity of the attraction, and soon, Disney introduced two versions.
On May 19, 2006, guests could begin to choose to be members of the Orange or Green Teams. The Orange Team features a centrifuge which simulates G Forces through a spinning motion and is the more intense version of the attraction. The Green Version is a motion simulator which involves no spinning. While I recommend experiencing the Orange Team if you don’t tend to have motion sickness or really love G Forces, I really enjoy the fact that there are now two versions to experience. It gives me the opportunity to experience Mission: SPACE® with my boyfriend since he is hesitant about the Orange Team.
All guests, 44” and taller, enter the attraction through Planetary Plaza which beautifully captures the spirit of space travel by displaying the planets and a shuttle soaring past them. Off to the left of the queue entrance is a model of the moon with twenty nine gold spheres representing each of the moon landing missions of the United States and the Soviet Union from 1959 through 1976. Once through the plaza, all guests enter into the International Space Training Center (ISTC) and are greeted by some out of this world props including the thirty five foot tall gravity wheel I mentioned earlier which was a prop from the 2000 film Missions to Mars. Nearby is also an amazing NASA Lunar Roving Vehicle.
As guests progress closer to the pre-show, they can observe plaques displaying the history and major accomplishments in space travel through time – including the first family in space alongside their dog! Guests will then realize that Mission: SPACE® is actually set in the year 2036 which was chosen as it marks the 75th anniversary since Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. Finally, guests pass through the ISTC Command Center and enter into the pre-show based upon whether they chose the Orange or Green Team.
A familiar face pops up in the pre-show: Gary Sinese, star of several space themed films including Mission to Mars and Apollo 13. He is the CapCom, there to introduce guests to the ISTC and instruct them on the flight training mission to Mars they are about to experience. After the introduction, guests move forward in teams of four to the pre-boarding area where the CapCom introduces their ride vehicle – the X-2 Deep Space Shuttle. Guests are then assigned a role to fulfill throughout their adventure – Pilot, Commander, Navigator, or Engineer. While waiting to board, listen for an announcement addressed to Mr. Johnson – he was the former robot host of the extinct Magic Kingdom® Park attraction Mission to Mars.
Once in the ride vehicles, the cabin doors shut and guests are off on their adventure to Mars. Before launching, look for some classic Hidden Mickeys on the sides of the gang plank doors. Once the launch is a go, each team member will have two tasks to complete in order to have the mission be a success. The Pilot engages the second stage rockets and deploys shields, the Engineer activates hyper sleep and extends wings for gliding, the Navigator fires rockets for lunar orbit insertion and fires rockets for descent, and the Commander initiates first stage separation and activates manual control. Sounds like a lot of jobs to complete right? Well in the adventure, guests will come face to face with a three month long hyper sleep, a slingshot around the moon, a series of evasive maneuvers, and somewhat of a rough landing. Talk about an adventure!
Upon making it back to Earth, Mission: SPACE®’s original song “Destiny” is playing as guests enter into the post-show titled the Mission: SPACE Advanced Training Lab. There is a play area for children not tall enough to enjoy the attraction as well as many interactive games and displays to engage guests of all ages. Don’t just blow through on the way back to Future World, take some time to explore!
While Mission: SPACE® is definitely the most intense attraction in Walt Disney World®, I think it is one of the best ones! Whether you are Team Orange, Team Green, or Team Wait Outside With The Bags you are in for an adventure!
What Team are you on? What is your favorite part of Mission: SPACE®? Let me know by leaving a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
(Photos are from the author’s personal collection.)
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.