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Mission: Space

A photo tour of Epcot's newest E-ticket ride

Thursday, October 16, 2003
by Text and photos by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

When MousePlanet contributors Steve Kiskamp and Vicki Groff visited Epcot during a soft-opening of the new Mission: Space in Epcot, they returned with a wonderful narrative of the attraction, and many photos of the queue and post-show areas. Steve and Vicki had such a great time enjoying the ride, however, that they did not take photos of the actual attraction itself.

During the grand opening festivities last week, I braved Mission: Space five times in one day to take additional photos and video of the attraction. Enjoy.

The entrance courtyard, known as the “Planetary Plaza,” features Earth, Moon and Jupiter spheres. Imagineers looked at 100 different shades of red before choosing the final color for the entrance sphere.

The moon sphere marks the landing locations of the 29 missions sent to the moon by the U.S. and Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976. Ten quotes from astronauts, politicians, and philosphers are presented on clear plaques around the courtyard.

Each color-coded marker on the moon sphere gives the dates and details of each moon mission.

Just inside the building, a mock-up of the X-2 rocket pod gives potential riders an idea of what to expect.

The interior of the pods are not as cramped as some expect, but they are dark inside.

The Horizons logo in the middle of the 35-foot Gravity Wheel pays tribute to the attraction that formerly occupied the Mission: Space building.

The Gravity Wheel rotates slowly to show the compartments, including this dining room.

The exercise room in the Gravity Wheel has a treadmill and stair climber.

The tiny medical room has a folding exam table, and doubles as an office.

The main queue, known as the “Sim Lab,” includes this real Lunar Rover, on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Training Operations Room gives waiting riders a glimpse into the control room for the attraction. Although the stations that face the queue are mock-ups, the monitors facing the cast members are real.

One bank of monitors shows “video” from inside the simulators. …It's amazing that the same people seem to ride over and over again.

This station has charts and maps of the possible “landing” sites on Mars.

As riders walk towards Team Dispatch, videos on overhead monitors repeatedly warn that people who suffer from motion sickness or are uncomfortable in dark spaces should avoid the ride. The video also shows how the 10-arm centrifuge operates.

The video repeatedly warns visitors about the ride. (1.3Mb)

Riders are exposed to warning signs, announcements and videos from the moment they enter the queue to the moment they enter the ride vehicle.

Even with the excessive warnings that some consider overkill, cast members say that some riders simply do not understand what they are in for until they step inside the pod.

Once you reach Team Dispatch, cast members group you into a team of four people, and send you to one of the four Ready Rooms. Each room can hold 10 teams.

The small Ready Rooms display a rack of space suits, and have two overhead flat-panel monitors for the ride briefing.

Inside the Ready Room, teams are told to stand on their numbers, so cast members can see how many spots are open. This ride offers a single rider line to fill in any holes in the teams. Cast members joke that they really need a second single rider line, to fill the holes left when people opt out just before the ride. One cast member said that two to three people per cycle opt out before the ride starts.

Actor Gary Sinise acts as “Capcom,” the capsule communicator who guides riders through the mission.

After the mission briefing, riders are sent to their stations.

The hallway around the centrifuge is marked with 10 flight stations. This is where the crew members learns which roles they will play in the mission.

Riders enter the pods through one door, and exit through the other.

Each pod has pitch-and-roll movement, creating a realistic ride experience. Stereo woofers on the back of each pod create the rumbling launch sounds.

Riders each have their own stations, with flat-screen monitor, control panel and joystick control. The buttons, dials, toggles and levers actually move, and cause various panel lights to switch on and off.

Once the pod door is shut, the control panel tilts in towards the riders. Although it feels like a tight fit, the cabin is not as cramped as it may seem.

To prepare for launch, the pod is tilted back slightly. Along with the video, this gives riders the feeling that they are laying on their back, looking at the sky.

The front exterior of the pod, with the panel in the open position. When this is closed, this panel is perfectly vertical.

The back of the pod, with the door and front panel closed.

Spoiler alert

Are you ready for your test launch to Mars? View this 15-second video of the launch sequence to experience the ride. And when you're ready, view the second 15-second video to watch the attempted landing sequence.

The Jupiter sphere at night.

The Earth sphere at night.


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