Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From " Mission to Mars " to " Mission : Space "

We will have a look today to Disney's attractions in relation with travel in outer space. "Mission to Mars" now a Disneyland and Walt Disney World extinct attraction was located in Tomorrowland. The show was originally named Flight to the Moon and as we know it opened in 1955. In 1975, the destination was changed to Mars because man had already been to the moon. During that time, the attraction was considerably updated.

The show was initially sponsored by McDonnell-Douglas. After sponsorship ended, logos referring to the company were removed from the attraction, but the outline of the stylized tail fin in the McDonnell-Douglas logo still remains part of the former building's facade as you can see on this short Youtube video showing Mission to Mars entrance at night.

The show was designed in cooperation with NASA and was basically a revised and updated version of the previous attraction Flight to the Moon. Guests would now be launched on a spacecraft into space and then approach the surface of the red planet Mars.

Guests would first enter a viewing area known as Mission Control, which was modeled after a typical mission control center with chairs and control panels for about ten seated Audio-Animatronic "technicians" whose backs were to the audience as they moved their heads and arms. Facing the audience was the Audio-Animatronic flight director Mr. Johnson. He would then talk and show film clips to explain how man had made numerous advances in space travel and manufacturing in microgravity, and also learned how to deal with the effects of space. The lecture was interrupted once per show by an intruder alarm caused by a large bird crash-landing near the spacecraft launch pad.

After the pre-show, guests would move on and finally board their spacecraft. Inside was a circular theater with stadium-like seating with circular flat screens on the ceiling and floor. During the mission, guests could look at the views from outside the spacecraft from either of these screens. There were also side screens that showed film clips or graphics.

"Third Officer Collins" was the tour guide, and discussed the mission as the spacecraft explored space and Mars. Eventually, the ship was damaged, possibly by a volcanic eruption, and the ship had to quickly head back to Earth. The seats in the attraction would simulate the vibrations and G-forces from "Hyper-space" during take-offs and landings by filling up with compressed air. Finally, the spacecraft landed safely back on Earth and Officer Collins would then urge guests to return and visit again. As he explained, "there's a lot more to see on Mars".

The attraction closed at Disneyland on November 2, 1992, and at the Magic Kingdom on October 4, 1993. It re-opened as the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter as part of the Magic Kingdom's New Tomorrowland on June 20, 1995 but that's another story...

Below two videos of Mission to Mars, the first one shows the pre-show with Mission Control room and the second one the show itself. Please note that the show was quite dark, so...

Ten years later, another "mission" will take WDW guests on Mars, and it was at Epcot when "Mission: Space" opened on October 9, 2003. Well, as a matter of fact, what opened was the first part of a much better "Mission: Space" attraction concept.

In its first concept part one of the attraction was the same one that Epcot guests can ride every day, i.e the shuttle centrifuge-simulator of a blast-off to outer space.

But instead to go on Mars, the original concept would have sent Mission: Space guests to a Space Station built on the Moon - or, according to Jim Hill in his excellent 2001 article, on a huge asteroid.

Always according to Jim "After they've arrived at the station, Epcot visitors will be free to disembark and discover the many wonders that are hidden deep inside that asteroid". And how, you ask? Well, that was the third genius part of the ride as Guests would have been able to move inside the Space Station thanks to a simulation of "MMU" - Manned Maneuvering Unit - the famous propulsion backpack which was used by NASA astronauts on three space shuttle missions in 1984 and which allowed the astronauts to perform untethered EVA spacewalks at a distance from the shuttle. Of course, as you can see on the rendering below, every one was supposed to follow the track, but the ride would have been great anyway, don't you think so?

Of course the cost of the whole attraction was extremely high, and too high probably for Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO at that time. Only the first part of the ride was saved and Mission: Space was built on the former site of the beloved Horizons attraction.

Grand Opening happened on October 2003 and here is the video of the ceremony attended by Disney CEO Michael Eisner, HP CEO Carly Fiorina and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, as well as several NASA astronauts from its many phases of human space exploration- Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, the space shuttle program and two crew members aboard the International Space Station!

The two next videos shows the attraction itself. The first one shows part of the pre-show as well as Mission Space Imagineers, and the second one was filmed during the ride itself, showing the whole movie one can see during the centrifuge ride.

This article ends my "Man on the Moon" celebration and tomorrow we'll be back to Earth!


Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this interview on D&M english forum on Mice Chat

All pictures: copyright Disney

Many thanks to the different people for the Youtube videos!

Thanks to Wikipedia for part of the text

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