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Space Mountain is an indoor roller coaster in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort which opened on January 15, 1975 as the first Space Mountain attraction at any Disney park. It is unique in that it features two tracks, much like its inspiration, Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds, which opened on June 14, 1959.

History

Space Mountain was originally developed as a concept for Disneyland's 1967 overhaul of Tomorrowland pitched by Walt Disney himself. Beginning development in late 1964 under the title of "Space Port" and designed by John Hench, the attraction would be a four-tracked roller coaster in the dark with controlled space lighting and projections to simulate space travel. However, the concept would be stalled as a result of the technology not being quite there, space concerns regarding the four-track concept, and the lack of a corporate sponsor.

About seven years later, the concept was revived to fill a need in the Magic Kingdom for a thrill ride attraction. With advances in computer control technology and the sponsorship of RCA, Space Mountain's construction began on December 15, 1972. To accommodate the attraction's planetarium and two tracks, Space Mountain's broad sloped roof was made up of 72 precast concrete beams each measuring around 117 feet in length and weighing 74 tons. Taking three years to build, Space Mountain stands over 183 feet tall with a diameter of over 300 feet. The attraction was dedicated on January 15, 1975, by RCA chairman Robert Sarnoff, Disney CEO Donn Tatum, and Apollo XV astronaut Colonel James Irwin, who took the first official ride. The elaborate ceremony, featuring a 2,000 piece band, fireworks, and a balloon launch, was the subject of the Wonderful World of Disney episode, "Welcome to the World".

As originally presented by RCA, the queue and post-show experiences focused on RCA's leading role in communications with a Home of the Future featuring various RCA home entertainment systems. After extending their contract in 1985, the Home of the Future would be replaced with a new post-show experience called RYCA-1: Dream of a New World focused on space colonization. This experience, along with the new "We've Come So Far" theme music would be retained in the attraction in some form ever since.

In 1994, FedEx would take over sponsorship of the attraction and the storyline of RYCA-1 would be reconfigured into emphasizing intergalactic shipping. Within the overarching storyline of the 1994 Tomorrowland remodel, Space Mountain served as Tomorrowland's primary spaceport and new queue signage and posters were introduced to reflect this storyline, as well as the SM-TV station running on monitors throughout the queue featuring Tomorrowland news, commercials, and other programs. The exit corridor was also routed through the newly built Tomorrowland Light and Power Co. arcade, which also served as the attraction's gift shop.

After FedEx dropped its sponsorship in 2004, references to the company were quietly scrubbed from the attraction. On April 19, 2009, Space Mountain would close for a lengthy refurbishment that would be its most extensive one since September 1999. With an estimated cost of USD $12.3 million, the refurbishment included some minor track replacement, upgrades to the queue featuring interactive elements, closing the roof of the load area, and a new ceiling for the dome's shell. The attraction officially reopened on November 21, 2009, with a soft opening period starting the week prior on November 13.

Several months after the attraction re-opened, a new musical score was added in speakers lining the tracks. The piece, entitled "Mount Bop", and composed by Mike Brassell, was advertised by Disney as presented in "Starry-o-Phonic" Sound. The score briefly includes musical cues from Michael Giacchino's 2005 score for the Disneyland version of the attraction.

In Summer 2018, the interactive games in the stand-by queue were removed, while the post show was closed from June 2018 to November 16, 2018, to remove the speed-ramp from the corridor and make it a walking path.

Summary

Queue

Entering the attraction, guests find themselves in Starport Seven-Five, the "Gateway to the Galaxies", home to Tomorrowland's station, "Tomorrowland Station MK-1". On a signboard listing connecting stations, a listing of Active Earth Stations accounts for the other incarnations of the attraction including "TL Space Station 77", "Discovery Landing Station - Paris", "Ashita Station - Tokyo", and "HK Spaceport E-TKT".

Taking a ramp further down the concourse, guests pass through the Star Tunnel, where distorted windows allow guests to look out into the stars, followed by another room containing star maps showing various intergalactic space lanes and another set of distorted windows containing views of spacecraft, astronauts at working fixing a satellite, a view of the earth, galaxies and meteors. From 2009 to 2018, this area contained interactive games where you helped the Starport's robot commander clear the runways of debris and remove oncoming meteors, though this was retired with the introduction of the Play Disney Parks app.

Arriving at Mission Control and the load area, the queue splits in half towards the respective Alpha and Omega loading stations. Originally, there was no ceiling in this area, allowing guests to see the track and stars above them. The view was closed off in 2009 to make the attraction darker. The new load-area ceilings feature projections of various space phenomena.

Ride

Space Mountain consists of two almost identical tracks: one Alpha, the other Omega. The ride is electronically operated via computer, a first in the history of roller coasters. Using specific brake zones, the computer is able to gauge the weight of each car and its distance between other cars, allowing for multiple cars on one track. Most roller coasters today have similar programs. The layouts of the two tracks are mirror copies of each other, though Alpha is about ten feet longer then Omega.

After departing from Mission Control, the rockets enter a "superspace" tunnel that infuses the rocket with energy and brings them to a launch dock where astronauts are at work repairing the CMB-2000 rocket,[1] while the Peoplemover track comes through on another level below. Beginning our descent from the lift-hill, the rockets begin their journey through the stars, past projected imagery of planets, meteorites, and galaxies. We finally re-enter back to Earth through a red wormhole tunnel and arrive back at the Tomorrowland station.

Post-Show

After arriving back at Tomorrowland Station MK-1, we pass by the robot-manned Command Center and baggage claim, with luggage stickers on the suitcases showcasing Space Station X-1 and Mesa Verde from the extinct Horizons attraction. Moving through the corridor back to Tomorrowland, dioramas advertising various locations accessible by Spaceport 75 can be seen. These include the red-rock canyons of Mercury Peak Intergalactic Park, a camping trip at Crater Caverns where a robot dog can be seen watching over the camp, a submarine voyage "20,000 Lightyears Under the Sea" on the Coral Moons of Pisces 7, and a luxurious hotel with robot butler in Constellations, the city of stars.

Video Games

Adventures in the Magic Kingdom

The ride appears as a side-scrolling level in the NES game Adventures in the Magic Kingdom.

Trivia

  • Later, when the attraction was given the green light, Mercury 9 and Gemini 5 astronaut Gordon Cooper joined the Space Mountain creative team as a consultant. He wanted to make sure that the attraction incorporated information gleaned during NASA’s early space missions and that the experience felt like actual space flight. His valuable input has made Space Mountain a favorite for over 35 years.
  • Space Mountain is known for its frequent breakdowns. During a breakdown, the work lights are turned on, breaking the illusion of traveling through space. While the attraction is shut down, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover that passes through the building does not, allowing passengers to see the ride with the lights on.
  • This version of Space Mountain is featured in The Golden Girls episode Two Rode Together, where to ride it was a goal of Sophia's and in the end, she rode it with Dorothy.
  • The Space Mountain Control Center post-show scene since 2009 contains references to other attractions in its Open and Closed Sectors listings.

Gallery

References

  1. http://disneyshawn.blogspot.com/2009/04/space-out.html
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