By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Mission: SPACE

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

At a cost of over a hundred million dollars, Mission: SPACE in Epcot’s Future World opened in 2003, replacing the former Horizons attraction. Mission: SPACE takes place at the 45,000 square-foot ISTC (International Space Training Center) in the year 2036.

Each capsule of the X-2 Deep Space Shuttle holds a commander, pilot, navigator and engineer who are each given a task to perform during the mission. Each capsule has more computing power than a space shuttle. The attraction mechanism is basically a huge centrifuge that has multiple arms.  It spins and tilts in order to create the feeling that the guest is actually taking off and floating through space. The attraction has the rider experience up to 2.5Gs at liftoff, more than twice the force of gravity felt every day.

The Orange Mission is a trip to Mars and a descent to the surface. The Green Mission–that does not utilize the centrifuge but includes the tilting–is an orbit of the Earth.

It took more than 650 Walt Disney Imagineers more than 350,000 hours (the equivalent of 40 years of time) to develop Mission: SPACE. The Imagineers’ efforts took place over a five-year period.

Nearly 100 shades of red were tested before Imagineers decided on the color of the red planet that dominates the dramatic facade of Mission: SPACE.

The Gravity Wheel in the Space Simulation Lab rotates at one rotation per minute. It is 35 feet tall and 12 feet wide. The logo of the former Horizons attraction is affixed to the hub. The Horizons logo is also on the front of the cash register counter in the gift shop at the exit of the attraction. The planter in front of the attraction was the planter that formerly contained the Horizons marquee.

At the launch for the Mission: SPACE attraction in 2003 both astronaut Buzz Aldrin (who had shot a commercial promoting the attraction) and astronaut Wally Schirra (who wore a Mickey Mouse wristwatch during his October 1968 Apollo 7 mission) were in attendance.

The LRV (Lunar Rover) suspended from the ceiling in the Sim Lab is on loan from the Smithsonian. According to Walt Disney Imagineering, it is the only LRV constructed by NASA that is not on the moon.

The music was custom-written and scored for this attraction by Trevor Rabin, a one-time member of the rock band Yes, and a prolific composer of motion picture scores.

WDI worked with more than 25 space experts from NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory including five astronauts. NASA provided tours, briefings and discussions on current human and robotic missions, as well as the challenges that future missions, like a trip to Mars, might present.

With a career in the NASA space program that spanned more than 30 years, six-time NASA shuttle astronaut Story Musgrave is an ongoing consultant to the attraction. Musgrave describes the attraction as “a place where guests can imagine our future in space and their role in it, walking in the footsteps of heroes and building on the wealth of technology we’ve developed to date.”

Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios Dick Cook began an initiative to turn theme park attractions into films and one of the projects he approved was Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars (2000). The finished film has little direct relationship to the Mission to Mars theme park attraction but did inspire the Mission: SPACE attraction at Epcot in Florida, with actor Gary Sinise playing the same role he did in the film.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, The Unofficial Walt Disney World 1971 Companion: Stories of How the World Began, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.



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