Disney Imagineers went to the experts when they designed Mission Space for Epcot. More than 25 space experts from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, including 5 astronauts were consulted during the project. The resulting attraction is an amazing simulation of a rocket trip to Mars utilizing some of the same technology that is used for training astronauts.
Mission Space opened at Epcot on August 15, 2003 in the former location of Horizons. It took over 350,000 work hours to develop this attraction. The outside of the pavilion is marked with dramatic spheres representing: Jupiter, Earth, its moon, and Mars, the red planet.
Creating the attraction involved developing a first of its kind custom designed ride system that used state of the art centrifuge technology. Based on actual NASA astronaut training techniques, Mission Space uses 4 giant centrifuges that each have 10 pods that can hold 4 passengers each.
Orange Mission Or Green Mission?
In order to satisfy the thrill seekers and the "less adventurous" space explorers, Disney World developed a "less intense" version of the ride by removing the spinning action of the simulator. This allows Disney World Guests to choose the Orange "Full Intensity" Mission or the Green "Less Intense" Version.
For those that choose the Orange Mission, the use of the centrifuge action to simulate the verticle take-off of the rocket and the later feeling of weightlessness are truly amazing. There are no other theme park attractions to compare to it.
Real Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Rhea Seddon have ridden Mission Space and give it the "thumbs up" for capturing the realism compared to real space travel.
The "story" behind Mission Space follows the ISTC (International Space Training Center) in the year 2036 as we mark 75 years of space travel looking back to the original flight of Yuri Gagarin.
Here the Disney World Guests become trainees preparing for a Mission To Mars on the X-2 rocket.
The 35 foot diameter space wheel can be viewed by guests as they wait their turn for their training flight on the X-2 rocket. There is also a real lunar rover to see that is on loan from the Smithsonian Institute.
In a tribute to past Disney World attractions (and reuse of old props) the control room contains consoles from the old Magic Kingdom attraction called Mission To Mars.
Trainees are greeted by Gary Sinese, aka CAPCOM, to receive their instructions for their upcoming training mission. Here they learn that each of the 4 trainees has a specific role to play during the flight: Navigator, Engineer, Pilot, & Commander.
Realistic screens await the trainees while they wait to board their flight.
Outside the attraction there is a replica X-2 Training module, so that you can see what they look like. Each one holds 4 people per flight.
The inside of the X-2 trainer is visible as you enter the vehicle. Each person gets their own view screen and joystick controller. Once you are secured in your seats you can still see the others in your group though it is relatively close quarters.During the ride itself you need to look forward at the screen during the duration to minimize the likelihood of becoming motion sick from the experience. The simulated lift-off generates nearly 2.5 g (or a force equal to 2 1/2 times the normal force of gravity.)
Amazing Ride Experience
Mission Space is a unique ride experience that is certainly one of the most thrilling rides at Disney World. The theming is top notch and Disney really did their homework to develop this attraction to closely simulate the same experience that NASA astronauts go through (albeit for a much shorter 4 minute duration.)
The option to have the less intense version is a great idea and the simulation without the G-forces generated by the centrifuge still make for a fun ride experience.
Mission Space should be on everyone's MUST Do list for Epcot. Depending upon your thrill seeking tastes choose either the Orange Mission or the Green Mission, but don't miss out on experiencing Mission Space firsthand.