My Disney Top 5 - Things to Love About Epcot's Mission:Space

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. As always, I hope you are all healthy and safe and I do hope that some of you readers out there made it to the re-opening of Disneyland over the past few weeks. It's an extremely positive sign that things are headed in the right direction.

I'm continuing my long tour through each Walt Disney World attraction. I've only scratched the surface in Epcot, finishing off Future World West last time with Journey into Imagination with Figment. I got some great feedback from you faithful readers. Some love Figment just as much as I do. Others have, to put it kindly, a great distaste for this venerable Epcot attraction. One of the best things about writing for MousePlanet is hearing what you Disney fans out there have to say so keep your opinions and comments coming. I have no shortage of Disney themed ideas to write about especially when it comes to one of my favorite places to visit anywhere, Epcot.

It's time to head across the park to the opposite side of Future World – a name we'll be saying goodbye to sometime in the not so distant future as Epcot undergoes it's well earned and much needed facelift. I don't necessarily love the landscape and feel of Future World East as much as I do Future World West. I tend to spend a lot more time over with The Land, The Seas and Figment, but with my favorite Marvel characters, The Guardians of the Galaxy, headed to Future World East, that may all change. Peter Quill and his family of outcasts will have great company on this side of Epcot because two of Disney's best attractions call the east side home, Test Track and the subject of today's Top 5, Mission:Space.

Standing on the hallowed grounds of the former Horizons, Mission:Space was launched (Sorry, I had to to go for that one!) in 2003 with some rather impressive fanfare. Not only were all the Disney chiefs present, as one would expect, but the official grand opening was attended by the then head of NASA, Sean O'Keefe, as well as several bona fide astronauts, two of whom were being beamed in live from the International Space Station. The budget for this attraction was rumored to be around the $100 million mark, not the most expensive Disney attraction ever built, but still a pretty whopping dollar amount by any stretch of the imagination.

Mission:Space has a slightly checkered past. After the ride was launched, it became swiftly apparent that Disney needed to add motion sickness bags to the attraction and with good reason. Guests in the original Orange version of the ride are exposed to a gut wrenching 2.5Gs of force. Most astronauts are exposed to 3G and NASA tries to keep things below 4, so Mission:Space is doing the rocket launch some serious justice with 2.5. If you've ever experienced the Orange version of the ride, you know what I mean. Some people absolutely hate this ride, and that's a shame because the whole package is actually pretty darn impressive. I'm actually a big fan. Why is that? Let's take a look with my Top 5 things to love about Epcot's Mission:Space.

5 - The Post Show

"Send them out through the gift shop," has always been an unofficial Disney credo when they are considering what to do with guests as they leave an attraction. Yes, Mission: Space does eventually end up in a gift shop and a pretty cool one at that, Mission:Space Cargo Bay. But it's the post show area right after you exit that has something for everybody. My kids typically wanted nothing to do with Mission: Space and neither did my wife, so they used to love waiting for me in the Advanced Training Lab. First things first: it's an extended AC break which is always welcome in the Orlando summer swelter.


There's plenty of fun to be had at the Advanced Training Lab in the Mission:Space post show area. ©Disney

When they were little, my guys loved the Space Base playground full of nets and things to climb on. Both of my boys, as well as their dad, used to spend time playing the Expedition: Mars joystick game and then we all graduated to the "giant video game," known as Mission: Space Race. All in all, this is a well conceived and well executed post show. Keep in mind that you do not need to experience the attraction to head in here for a while and check it out. It's a fun place to take the kids for an indoor break, even if you don't blast off to Mars.

4 - Astronaut Mickey

Since we're in the post show area of the attraction, I thought I'd draw your attention to one of the coolest "Big Figs" in any of the Walt Disney World theme parks. For those of you out there that aren't as Disney obsessed as some of us, Big Figs stands for Big Figures. Once upon a time you could actually buy Disney Big Figs from the Disney Store, online and in the parks. They were modeled after the large Disney character figures found in the old Disney Stores and scattered in various gift shops throughout the parks and resorts.


Astronaut Mickey towers over the Cargo Bay Gift Shop at the exit of Mission:Space. ©Disney

I'm pretty sure that Astronaut Mickey from the aforementioned Mission:Space Cargo Bay shop is my favorite Big Fig on Disney property. Once again, head into the exit of the attraction to check him out even if you don't feel up to the attraction. While you're there check out the cool mural behind the cash registers featuring the Fab Five all decked out in their best space outfits. Very cool.

3 - Queue Props

One thing I truly love about the modern era of Disney attraction design is the obsessive attention to detail when it comes to props in the queues. My mind tends to go to Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest. The Imagineers must have dug up every piece of vintage climbing gear they could possibly get their hands on for that one. Mission:Space is no slouch when it comes to the props department. Let's face it, what's cooler than the actual Lunar Rover that hangs from the ceiling. It is reportedly on loan from none other than the Smithsonian Institution itself. According to NASA, its the only one they built that's not actually still up on the Moon!


The incredibly detailed 'control room' in the Mission:Space queue.©Disney

The control room that they built is ridiculously real looking and only helps to further the storyline that you are, in fact, headed into training. As if the lunar rover and control room weren't cool enough, my favorite piece of eye candy in the Mission:Space queue, and perhaps my favorite prop in any Disney attraction queue has to be the huge rotating Gravity Wheel. It's quite a sight. Be sure to look for the Horizons logo, a nod to the former attraction that once lived here.

2 - Mars Orange Mission

In case you don't already know, Mission:Space has two different missions to choose from. The original Orange version of the attraction and the newer, tamer, Earth Green Mission are presented to you out front. Choose wisely. The missions and videos are different, but the main difference - and trust me, this is an oversimplification - is that Green doesn't spin. By that, I mean that you don't get the full g-force effect that you do in the Orange mission. And by effect, I don't mean special effect. I mean in Orange you literally feel the full force of 2.5 times the gravity on Earth which can be, how shall I say, disconcerting to some guests.


Pay heed to the signs outside of Epcot's Mission: Space and choose wisely. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

On the Green mission, you still get to blast off and experience being in a very realistic space capsule, you just don't get anywhere near the intensity. In my opinion, just about anyone can handle Green and enjoy the experience. Orange, on the other hand, is like nothing else I've ever experienced. It's incredible. It's intense. It can leave you feeling very, very…off? I've never gotten sick. But I've needed to sit down and grab my bearings for a while afterwards. If the intent of experiencing a Disney attraction is to transport you someplace else using your imagination, Mission:Space Orange does just that, but it's literally a physical journey as well. Not for everyone, but if you love it, like I alluded to, there's simply nothing else like it.

1 - The Exterior

I have to say, there are moments when I'm at Walt Disney World where I stop in my tracks and feel awestruck by what I'm looking at. Space Mountain is a work of architectural beauty. The Tree of Life is simply breathtaking to behold. And still to this day, each time I head into Future World East and get my first glimpse of the Mission:Space pavilion, I tend to stop in my tracks. It's completely unique-looking, exhibiting architectural aspects that are definitely futuristic and yet, at the same time, classic. It's really a beautifully designed structure.


The Moon rises above the facade of Mission: Space at Epcot. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Planetary Plaza, as the exterior of the attraction is known, welcomes you in with globes representing Earth, Mars and Jupiter. The curvilinear structure of the building is meant to give you the feeling of blasting off into outer space and it works its magic on me every time I look at it. It may very well be my favorite structure on Disney property.

Mission:Space, as I mentioned above, does have a little bit of a checkered past. People have gotten sick. People have been sent to the hospital. And yes, two people actually passed away after riding. Both had pre-existing conditions and probably should not have been in there in the first place; but still, tragedy and Walt Disney World are not words that go hand in hand. Orange, as noted above and as plastered all over the outside of the attraction, is seriously intense and if you have any of the ailments or health concerns listed, you shouldn't ride. I realize it's a whole different situation, but someone told me that Flight of Passage was like Soarin' over Pandora. My dad loves Soarin'. Flight of Passage sent him to the Animal Kingdom First Aid. He was a mess and never should have been on that ride at his age with his ailments. My point? Read the signs. Take the Orange mission seriously.

That said the Green mission is a whole other ballgame and it's a shame that many people steer clear of this ride because of Orange's reputation. Mission:Space is the whole package. It's an inspirational, fun, technologically impressive attraction and it shouldn't be dismissed just because of the air sickness bags. Green shouldn't make most people sick at all. If you freak out in enclosed spaces than, yes, you should probably keep heading over to Test Track next door. But if you're like me and love the whole idea of blasting off into outer space and feeling the awe and wonder that actual astronauts feel, then Mission:Space just might be your cup of tea.

That's all for this time. As always I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below. Share your thoughts on Mission:Space. Stay safe and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.

 

Comments

  1. By wdwchuck

    Yep, first time on Orange I didn't puke but sure felt horrible for quite awhile afterward. So no Top Five for this one. I will give you credit though, I might try the Green one. My experience with Orange was so bad that I haven't even gone near that place for a long time. Bleccchhhhh.

  2. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by wdwchuck View Post
    Yep, first time on Orange I didn't puke but sure felt horrible for quite awhile afterward. So no Top Five for this one. I will give you credit though, I might try the Green one. My experience with Orange was so bad that I haven't even gone near that place for a long time. Bleccchhhhh.

    Yeah...Bleccchhhh is a pretty common sentiment when it comes to Mission:Space. I get it. It's a shame though, because it's pretty damn cool in that pavilion.

  3. By danyoung

    I've been on Mission:Space exactly once, and I was freaking out from the moment the control panel moved into show position. Not that the gravity bothered me, nor the spinning (which I think is by far the problem with most people that get sick). It was the tiny cabin. I'm very claustrophobic, and I couldn't wait for this one to be over. Never again - orange or green.

  4. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    I've been on Mission:Space exactly once, and I was freaking out from the moment the control panel moved into show position. Not that the gravity bothered me, nor the spinning (which I think is by far the problem with most people that get sick). It was the tiny cabin. I'm very claustrophobic, and I couldn't wait for this one to be over. Never again - orange or green.

    Sure is. I made sure to mention that in the article. It's a remarkably tight space, which adds to the realism, but I'm sure also adds to some people's panic!

  5. By wdwchuck

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    I've been on Mission:Space exactly once, and I was freaking out from the moment the control panel moved into show position. Not that the gravity bothered me, nor the spinning (which I think is by far the problem with most people that get sick). It was the tiny cabin. I'm very claustrophobic, and I couldn't wait for this one to be over. Never again - orange or green.

    I am right there with you Dan. I forgot about that as part of Mission Space. I remember I was at Universal a few years ago and tried to ride the new Harry Potter ride but once they locked me in I said no way Jose get me out of here. I can get big time claustrophobic in a hurry.

  6. By maxbuffmelvin71

    I am not a fan of Mission Space. I will only do it when there is no wait and if I have plenty of time at Epcot. I dislike simulator rides and I hate feeling nauseous after Orange Mission. I liked Horizons far more than Mission Space. I wish they kept Gary Sinise in the preshow.

    Here are my Top 5:
    5. Astronaut Mickey
    4. Its an original attraction and not based off an intellectual property. I am relieved Star Wars, Marvel, or Pixar hasnt been shoehorned into Mission Space.
    3. The Exterior
    2. Queue Props
    1. Tributes to former attractions like Horizons, Flight to Moon and Mission to Mars

  7. By Dave1313

    I do enjoy this attraction, even the Orange side (though I agree it's a bit intense - and I never experienced the original back before they dialed it down to what it is now). I take the intensity seriously with others. I took my mom (mid 70's) on Green, as she has been OK with other moderate thrill rides (she's done FoP and even Everest at DAK - though she admitted EE was maybe a bit too much the last time she rode it, even though she didn't feel sick or anything), but I would NEVER suggest she do Orange for Mission Space.

    While the Green Earth based ride is nice for the less intense version, I do sort of feel like it cheats people out of the Mars video/experience. I thought it made more sense when both went for the same mission(prior to the renovation), but just less intense on the Green side. Now if you have members of your group who split up, you can't have discussions of what the ride was like (at least not details) if they didn't ride the same side as you did.

    As to the top 5:

    5) I have never really tried to do any of the activities in the post ride area. I might have to check some of them out now.

    4) Astronaut Mickey is cool, agreed! I may have one slightly more favorite "Big Fig" from a special event: I recall a Donald Duck as Darth Maul (in Darth's Mall, of course) back in 2012 when Star Wars Weekends at DHS was themed to Phantom Menace. But even though that may be a more favorite "Big Fig" for me, this Mickey is still pretty darn cool! Also, while I doubt it's the exact same image as the print, there is (or was - can't say if it's still there) a penny press machine with a cool graphic that is very similar to that mural you refer to.

    3) Agree on all the early queue items you mentioned. I'm a little conflicted on the Control Room though. That and some of the other decorative details are to the point where they are really not terribly modern at this point in time. While it looks neat as a pre-show element, a modern control room would likely be much more heavily based on multiple computer monitors at each station and you probably would not see a single light up indicator (nor the physical buttons/switches) at any station in today's world.

    Even the basic concept of the vehicle being a sort of "souped up" shuttle is now based on something that has not flown in about ten years. If we had continued with some evolution into some other sort of Shuttle type vehicle when the Shuttle program ended, maybe I wouldn't be thinking of this aspect at all. But to many young people, the Shuttle is something out of the history books only at this point, unless they've seen one in a museum. We aren't likely to use a Shuttle type vehicle for space travel at any point in the immediate future, so it's sort of a hard thing to imagine as "this could happen in 20-30 years", as one might have felt when the Shuttle program was still active.

    2) Orange - See my opening comments.

    1) Love the exterior, and it's really cool when it's lit up at night. Lots of nice little details with factoids in the wall and ground too, IIRC (to the left when you pass the first entry, before you head right for the actual split to the green/orange queues)

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by maxbuffmelvin71 View Post
    I am not a fan of Mission Space. I will only do it when there is no wait and if I have plenty of time at Epcot. I dislike simulator rides and I hate feeling nauseous after Orange Mission. I liked Horizons far more than Mission Space. I wish they kept Gary Sinise in the preshow.

    Here are my Top 5:
    5. Astronaut Mickey
    4. Its an original attraction and not based off an intellectual property. I am relieved Star Wars, Marvel, or Pixar hasnt been shoehorned into Mission Space.
    3. The Exterior
    2. Queue Props
    1. Tributes to former attractions like Horizons, Flight to Moon and Mission to Mars

    Re: #4 - That is definitely one of the things that I love as well. I love when they take the time to create specifically for the parks. And yes, I'm thrilled that - dare I say, so far - they haven't tried to shoehorn Buzz into Mission:Space.

  9. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    I do enjoy this attraction, even the Orange side (though I agree it's a bit intense - and I never experienced the original back before they dialed it down to what it is now). I take the intensity seriously with others. I took my mom (mid 70's) on Green, as she has been OK with other moderate thrill rides (she's done FoP and even Everest at DAK - though she admitted EE was maybe a bit too much the last time she rode it, even though she didn't feel sick or anything), but I would NEVER suggest she do Orange for Mission Space.

    While the Green Earth based ride is nice for the less intense version, I do sort of feel like it cheats people out of the Mars video/experience. I thought it made more sense when both went for the same mission(prior to the renovation), but just less intense on the Green side. Now if you have members of your group who split up, you can't have discussions of what the ride was like (at least not details) if they didn't ride the same side as you did.

    As to the top 5:

    5) I have never really tried to do any of the activities in the post ride area. I might have to check some of them out now.

    4) Astronaut Mickey is cool, agreed! I may have one slightly more favorite "Big Fig" from a special event: I recall a Donald Duck as Darth Maul (in Darth's Mall, of course) back in 2012 when Star Wars Weekends at DHS was themed to Phantom Menace. But even though that may be a more favorite "Big Fig" for me, this Mickey is still pretty darn cool! Also, while I doubt it's the exact same image as the print, there is (or was - can't say if it's still there) a penny press machine with a cool graphic that is very similar to that mural you refer to.

    3) Agree on all the early queue items you mentioned. I'm a little conflicted on the Control Room though. That and some of the other decorative details are to the point where they are really not terribly modern at this point in time. While it looks neat as a pre-show element, a modern control room would likely be much more heavily based on multiple computer monitors at each station and you probably would not see a single light up indicator (nor the physical buttons/switches) at any station in today's world.

    Even the basic concept of the vehicle being a sort of "souped up" shuttle is now based on something that has not flown in about ten years. If we had continued with some evolution into some other sort of Shuttle type vehicle when the Shuttle program ended, maybe I wouldn't be thinking of this aspect at all. But to many young people, the Shuttle is something out of the history books only at this point, unless they've seen one in a museum. We aren't likely to use a Shuttle type vehicle for space travel at any point in the immediate future, so it's sort of a hard thing to imagine as "this could happen in 20-30 years", as one might have felt when the Shuttle program was still active.

    2) Orange - See my opening comments.

    1) Love the exterior, and it's really cool when it's lit up at night. Lots of nice little details with factoids in the wall and ground too, IIRC (to the left when you pass the first entry, before you head right for the actual split to the green/orange queues)

    That's a great point you make about the Space Shuttle. It's hard to believe that kids don't realize what the shuttle is and what it did, but you're right. My students at the high school probably have no clue.

  10. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    That's a great point you make about the Space Shuttle. It's hard to believe that kids don't realize what the shuttle is and what it did, but you're right. My students at the high school probably have no clue.

    Luckily, there's a real one on display not too far from WDW for anyone wishing to take a break from the parks one day! (Or the Enterprise in NYC at the Intrepid Museum for your students, but I've not personally seen that display. Though I believe it is much more simple than the Atlantis setup at KSC)

    The Atlantis display at KSC is quite nice, and you basically get to walk right under it. It's also mounted at an angle so you can see into the cargo bay. The bay doors are open, they even have the robotic arm set up.

    There is also a simulator ride, but it's no where near as intense as Mission Space Orange. It's a room similar to Star Tours but I seem to recall the room tilts up more noticeably than Star Tours does.

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