“Space Mountain captures the essence of Superspace. The expectant ‘space voyager’ is transported through the space station launch portal, and through the vast man-made ‘solar field.’ He then orbits the glowing ‘satellite,’ becomes engulfed in spectacular nebulae and plunges past myriads of strange stars and unknown galaxies to begin re-entry.” (Disney publicity, 1975 )
Space Mountain opened on January 15th 1975, as part of the Florida Project‘s Phase Two. In fact, it was one of the very first E-Ticket attractions to debut at Walt Disney World before Disneyland. The Californian version was introduced two years later, in 1977. Alongside Mickey Mouse in his spacesuit, astronauts Gordon Cooper (Mercury 9 and Gemini 5), Jim Irwin (Apollo 15), and Scott Carpenter (Mercury 7), were in attendance for the opening of the Magic Kingdom’s new space themed attraction. Cooper was a consultant on the creative team, and did a pre-show video describing the safety of the attraction.
The attraction took ten years to develop and two years to build. One of the biggest problems, was finding funding for the project. The first sponsor, RCA, was with the attraction from 1975-1985. Today’s version holds a tribute to RCA’s mascot Nipper as a robot dog in the exit.
“I wanted to observe the first guests to take the trip,” Imagineer John Hench wrote in his book Designing Disney, “They were middle-aged and laughing among themselves as they sat in their vehicle waiting to go. As they took off, I walked over to the exit where the rides ends to wait for them. As their vehicle came to a stop, there was a dead silence. Some seemed to be hyperventilating. One woman stirred first and got out of the car. She knelt down and loudly kissed the carpet. The others got out of the car and started up for the exit ramp. I followed them about halfway up the ramp; they broke into spontaneous weak-in-the-knees laughter, patting each other on the back, It came to me then that these people had not felt so alive in years as they did at that moment. These guests felt alive because of the effect of the story forms we had designed for sensation and thrill.”
While it may seem like one of the fastest attractions in Walt Disney World, it actually only reaches speeds up to 28 mph. Not much compared to Test Track’s 65 mph. Interestingly, Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain is the slowest out of all the Disney parks. Disneyland and Tokyo reach 30.5 mph, and Disneyland Paris’ is a whopping 43.5 mph.
The attraction’s structure is 183 feet tall (with 15 feet sunk into the ground for support), 300 feet wide, and a total 4.5 million cubic feet. Covering 10 acres, Space Mountain is more than double the size of Spaceship Earth. The track height is 90 feet, and steepest drop is at 39 degrees. The incline at the beginning of the attraction bring you to the top, is a 32 degree angle.
If you’ve already been on the classic attraction, you probably already know there are two tracks. Do you know the difference between the two? Built side by side, Omega on the right is 2:35 with 3,186 feet of track, while Alpha on the left is 3,196 feet long at 2:47. Alpha actually crosses over Omega, and therefore, one seems to have more drops 🙂
FedEx took over sponsorship in 1996. This addition included a new queue entertainment called Space Mountain TV. They had these big clunky televisions hanging from the ceiling in the queue playing a “broadcast from the future” that a Space Mountain Mission Control person is channel surfing. Celebrities such as Charles Fleischer (voice of Roger Rabbit), Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell), Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice), and Alexandra Wentworth (Office Space), were all featured in the short video loop. It was removed in 2005, after FedEx left the attraction in 2004.
The post show exit speed-ramp “Home of Future Living” theme was around until 1985, and featured the song “Here’s to the Future”. On the journey back to Tomorrowland, guests viewed scenes of a family with televisions and video disc players. It was replaced by Planet RCA and later “RYCA 1/Dream of a New World”. These versions advertised futuristic technology in the home and office as well as being able to see actual time video of themselves. 1993 brought another exit redesigned as “The FX-1 Teleport” displaying packages in the future. As the narrator remarks, “In the future packages will be sent by beams of light!” It was updated in 2005 removing the narration and all references to FedEx, and cleared away in 2009.
Later on in his book, Designing Disney, John Hench remarks, “This is a demonstration of what playtime does for our guests. I haven’t figured out yet how Walt understood so much about playtime. I do know that he always felt very much alive himself and guided us in creating forms that inspire play. He helped us to understand that to create a play space, we Imagineers must trust our own feelings and instincts, and must always nurture our own sense of play.” Space Mountain is a classic that will continue to inspire generations with its playfulness and sense of futuristic adventure.
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