MISSION: Space

MISSION: Space

Mission: SPACE is a motion simulator ride that provides astronaut trainees with the sensation of a flight through space.  When the Disney imagineers finally got around to realizing the idea for a space mission ride, they decided to go all out and make it as realistic as possible.  In order to do that they built a ride that utilizes 4 large centrifuges, each spinning 10 capsules holding 4 riders.  Combining the same technology used for actual astronaut training with the creative power of Disney resulted in a very intense experience.  The riding public quickly learned why we aren’t all astronauts.  Blasting off to space isn’t exactly a gentle boat ride into the great beyond.  It is a unique ride you won’t forget.  Whether that is good or bad depends on each individual.

With that in mind, Disney created a less intense version of the ride which doesn’t utilize the centrifuges.  They also came up with one of the best play areas for riders too young to participate in either version of the ride.  So, today we are going to divide up our podcast into the three teams as we explore how the whole family can experience Mission: SPACE.  Let’s start with the Orange Team.

WARNING! You should not participate in ORANGE TEAM – MORE INTENSE TRAINING if you are prone to motion sickness or made uncomfortable by enclosed dark spaces, simulators, or spinning. 

CAUTION!  You may experience motion sickness during and after this adventure.  You may be more likely to experience motion sickness if you have a headache, an inner-ear problem, or a history of migraines, vertigo, or elevated anxiety.  Drink water and be well rested before your launch.

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O.k. Orange team, if you are looking for the real deal, then this is the mission for you.  Welcome to the International Space Training Center or ISTC as we like to call it.  After you receive your orange card, which identifies you as the bravest of space explorers, you will be directed down the path to your training station.  Along, the way you can enjoy the history of those that have gone before you as you take in inspirational quotes, commemorative plaques, and replicas of famous vehicles.  All of those missions have lead to your assignment in the year 2036.

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It is time to board the X-2 Deep Space Shuttle and land on Mars.  You will be part of a 4 person crew comprised of the Commander, the Navigator, the Pilot, and the Engineer.  Each crew member will have a specific task to complete during the mission by pressing the correct button on the control panel at the specified time.  This may not seem like a hard task, but when you are feeling the force of 2.5 times normal gravity it will be harder than you think.

Don’t worry, you will be fully briefed on the mission and your role by CapCom in the ready room.  If at any point this sounds like more than you can chew, (or more appropriately keep down what you have already chewed), you can notify a cast member.

If you want to proceed you will squeeze into the tight 4 man capsule, be secured inside, and then moved into flight position.  This is a very tight, very dark space.  About the only thing you will be able to see is the control panel directly in front of you and the motion sickness bags right below that.  Once the capsule is closed, any second thoughts will have to wait until the mission is complete.

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The intense four minutes of the ride will take you through the sensation of lift off, a slingshot around the moon, hyper sleep, and evasive maneuvers.  When you are safely back on the ground it may take a while for your equilibrium to catch up.  Be sure and stay hydrated as you brag to your family and friends about joining the ranks of the Orange Team!

Here’s the Green Team!  You guys are the smart ones, right?  You don’t need the very real threat of using a barf bag to have a good time.  You read all the warning signs out front and realized those weren’t just put there by the Disney lawyers.  Oh no, they really mean it this time.   A happy astronaut is one who can still enjoy eating lunch after being on Mission: SPACE.  Good for you!

Your journey will begin the same as the Orange Team, except you will be given a green card, symbolizing your green light to have fun.  You still get to observe all the cool space memorabilia, like the replica of the NASA moon rover, as you make your way through the ISTC and arrive at the ready room.  You will receive the same set of instructions for your four man crew.  Of course, your task will be a little easier as you don’t have to worry about those pesky g-forces.  That’s right, the centrifuges are powered down for your flight.

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You will still have the motion simulator bucking you around a good bit so don’t get too comfortable.  A slingshot around the moon and some fancy flying are still in store.  You should arrive safely back at the ISTC at the same time as any of those cocky Orange Team members.  Ironically, they will probably look more like the Green team when you all meet back up.

Last, but certainly not least is Team Advanced Training Lab, or Team ATL as I like to call it.  For the space cadets not yet 44” tall, you may have the most fun mission yet!  While the rest of your family crams into a tight space capsule, you can run around in the giant Advanced Training Lab.

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To gain entry into the ATL you will need an adult Commander to escort you through the Mission: SPACE Cargo Bay.  Tell them this souvenir shop is to the left of the ride’s entrance.  After you bound through the shop you will enter the Advanced Training Lab.  Here, you can become a part of Team ATL in several different ways.

First, you can take on the challenge at Mission: SPACE Race!  A team of up to 56 cadets can team up to show the astronauts Ground Control is in control.  Team ATL has to race to complete a series of tasks so they can get their rocket from Mars to Earth first.  The command station here is much like the one on board the X-2 Deep Space Rocket.  The big difference is the spacious standing room here at Ground Control and the large overhead screens that track the progress of the mission.

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Next, you can really let your imagination go as you crawl through the Space Base.  This super cool playground lets you imagine moving through worm holes and reaching to the deepest parts of space.  There is no time limit on the fun you can have here.

When you are ready to put your feet on solid ground for a little breather, just step next door to Expedition Mars.  These large screen video games allow you to strap on a jet pack and explore the surface of Mars virtually.  Of course, you do have a mission, find your fellow 4 astronauts before time runs out!

Finally, don’t let your family of space explorers leave without stopping to send a postcard from space.  It is free to e-mail a video postcard to anyone that wasn’t able to join this Mission: SPACE campaign.

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All right, that is a quick look at the 3 teams you can join over at Mission: SPACE.  Whether you are a high thrill seeker like the Orange team, a more conservative scientist like the Green team, or a fledgling space cadet like Team ATL, there is something for the whole family.

When last my family was in EPCOT, my brother-in-law and I signed up for the Orange team while the rest of the crew took the 5-year old nephews to the Advanced Training Lab.  At first, the boys were sad they couldn’t go on Mission: SPACE.  However, after seeing all the ATL had to offer they weren’t ready to leave.  They had a great time and the adults watching them enjoyed a nice break in the cool air conditioning.  My brother-in-law and I got the wind knocked out of us by space travel, but we had a lot of fun in the process.

If you are planning on joining the Orange team I want to stress the physical toll this may take on your body.  First of all, no one with high blood pressure, a weak heart, or expectant mothers should ride the Orange Team version of Mission: SPACE.  Actually, expectant mothers should skip both the Orange and Green and just head for the Advanced Training Labs.  It is important to know there have been two confirmed deaths associated with Mission: SPACE.  One was a four-year old boy with an unknown heart condition in 2005.  The second was in early 2006, when a 49 year old woman suffered a stroke due to high blood pressure.  Both deaths were ruled the cause of preexisting conditions.  Due to these incidents, the Green team version of the ride was implemented in May, 2006.

To be fair to the ride and its creators, there have been millions of people that have experienced the ride without any problems.  If you have any doubt, the Green Team version is still a great ride.  Having been on the Orange version myself many times, I was surprised at how much fun the Green version of the ride still is.  I thought the ride would feel very tame without the use of the centrifuge, but it did not.  You still get all of the simulated flight movement, much like Star Tours – The Adventure Continues.

If you are new to the ride and aren’t sure, grab a Fastpass + for the Green version and try it first.  If you like it you can come back later and attempt the Orange version.  The standby for the ride is usually not too long, so a two-pronged approach is very doable.

If you think this is all a bunch of sissy hogwash and the ride can’t be that tough, you may be right.  Everyone handles the ride differently based on their body.  Still, I urge you to heed the advice of the ride and drink plenty of water before climbing aboard.  Probably a good idea to let your last meal settle before joining the Orange team no matter how tough you are.  Finally, if you do feel a little queasy after riding, I recommend grabbing a bottle of water and heading over to the nearby Universe of Energy.  This 45 minute slow moving ride will give your body just the rest it needs before tackling Test Track, Soarin’, or the smorgasbord of eateries in the World Showcase.

I hope you won’t be scared off by some of the tragic history associated with this ride.  Mission: SPACE really can be a lot of fun for the whole family.  The Orange version probably won’t be something you want to do back to back, but it is a unique experience.  Sitting here at home in San Antonio, TX, I can clearly remember what it feels like to sit there feeling the g-force of liftoff, followed by the weightlessness of space.  Pretty cool memory.  This ride provides the opportunity to slip on the imaginary space boots that only a handful of souls have worn in real life.

 

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