All systems are go. Mission: SPACE presented by HP officially blasted off October 9 at Epcot… and with the thundering roar of rockets and the gravity-defying exhilaration of liftoff, Walt Disney World guests are launching into an out-of-this-world adventure.
Decades “in the dreaming” and some five years “in the making,” the new attraction, uses a first-of-its-kind, custom-designed ride system based on actual NASA astronaut training techniques to engage guests in a one-of-a-kind astronaut experience. So believable is the deep-space mission to Mars that some Epcot guests ponder whether they have left the building during the adventure.
“Walt Disney Imagineers have combined our tradition of storytelling with the latest in technology to create an experience that our guests can get nowhere else in the world,” says Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “As a technology company, HP is the perfect partner to present this attraction, and Epcot is the perfect setting, continuing the park’s dedication to the explorer in all of us.” The new attraction is, in fact, the most technologically advanced ever created by Disney. It also marks a continuation of the collaboration with HP that began with the sale of a specially modified version of Bill Hewlett’s first invention to help fine tune theater acoustics for the motion picture Fantasia.
The International Space Training Center, several decades into the future, provides the setting for Mission: SPACE. As the crew selected for this ultimate space mission, guests head to the dispatch area and then move to the Ready Room, where they receive a history of astronaut training and are given the role they will assume during the mission. Invariably, post-mission guest chatter includes “wows” for the launch and the visual representations of space. Mission: SPACE taps existing principles of centrifuge technology to generate the true-to-life sensation of launching vertically. The integration of pitch and roll movement adds, by all accounts, an incredible realism. As for the visuals, the challenge of creating a believable “view out the window” resulted in Imagineers’ development of a unique virtual imaging system that includes a state-of-the-art video flat screen using components not yet available in the marketplace.
“[It's] a good combination of reality and looking ahead to what things might be like,” says former Shuttle astronaut Rhea Seddon. “I knew intellectually it was a centrifuge and that’s how they were generating the feeling, but it doesn’t feel like a centrifuge.” And that’s the point: It feels like the real thing.
From the Disney Newsreel, October 17, 2003