Walt Disney’s interests and infatuations were often made apparent by his company’s work in the film and later in the theme park industry. It wasn’t difficult to tell Walt was fascinated by American history after the release of films like Davy Crockett, Johnny Tremain or after the construction of themed lands such as Main Street USA, Frontierland, and Liberty Square within the Disney Parks.
Walt was a rare breed in that he was a nostalgic AND a dreamer. He not only celebrated what the future could bring but actively worked to see that it came true. His intentions and dreams were often far beyond what the technology at the time could accomplish but instead of writing it off as impossible, he often found ways to help further develop the technology and educate others.
One of Walt’s other facinations made very apparent particularly in the Disney Parks is with space travel. Walt’s interest and involvement with space travel began long before man or satellite ever made it into outer space. Be sure to watch the video at the end of the post of the Walt Disney TV production from 1955 about the working theory on how to get man into space.
On this day in 1961 the United States launched the first American, Alan Shepard Jr., into space, only 23 days after the Soviet Union completed the first ever manned space flight. To celebrate, let’s take a look at all of the ways guests of Walt Disney World have been able to experience space flight throughout the years.
Space Mountain would most likely be most people’s first thought when it comes to space travel in the Disney Parks. From the space port queue to the chill of racing through the stars and darkness, Space Mountain wins for the most iconic space travel attraction.
Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars
Once Neil Armstrong actually set foot on the moon, Flight to the Moon no longer was a dream of “tomorrow” so it then became Mission to Mars which is still a dream of “tomorrow” and no longer and attraction in Magic Kingdom.
If the controls in your X-2 vehicle actually work, Mission Space would not be far off from an actual training simulator astronauts use to prepare for their missions in space and is why Mission Space wins for the most realist space travel in the Disney Parks.
Unfortunately, I am not old enough to be able to recollect every scene of this attraction but when I look at old photos of this extinct attraction the scenes become so much more familiar to me. One thing I can recall quite easily is getting to pick how the attraction ended and if you can recall, one of your three choices was space so Horizons wins for most missed space flight.
While very little of Spaceship Earth is about space, it does have arguably one of the best “big reveal” show rooms in all of Walt Disney World therefore it wins for most breathtaking space scene.
Star Jets/Astro Orbiter
The Star Jets were part of a significant expansion to Tomorrowland that took place a couple of years after Walt Disney World opened. This expansion also later brought us Space Mountain which would easily overshadow the Star Jets, later to be renamed Astro Orbiter, as the preferred way to travel in space so the Astro Orbiter wins out for the most primitive space travel via Walt Disney World.
100 people were polled and asked the first person to come to mind when you hear the words: adventure, space, and captain. No one ever in the history of people ever said Captain EO or Michael Jackson! Apparently Disney thought they must replace one trippy attraction with another when Magic Journeys closed in 1986 so Captain EO wins the most trippy space trip ever to take off from Walt Disney World.
Disney decided to revist an idea from 1979 for a space flight simulator based on Disney’s film, The Black Hole, except this time they were going to take advanctage of the partnership they created with George Lucas during the development of Captain EO. From this came Star Tours which wins for most epic way to space travel!
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
The whole family can join the beloved and probably most recognizable character from any fiction or non-fiction space story, Buzz Lightyear. Part space flight, part competition, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin wins for best space flight for kids.
What is your preferred means of space travel when you are in Walt Disney World? Did I leave any attractions out that take the Walt Disney World guest into space?
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Great article! One of my favorites to date!
Thank you and thanks for being a dedicated reader!