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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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.