Only three weeks ago Doobie and I along with dozens and dozens of Epcot guests watched the shuttle Endeavour carrying the astronauts of mission STS -118 into space. Shuttle launches are meant to be watched in a group. There is something extraordinary about the mass countdown and celebration as the tiny speck of fire rises into the heavens.
Today we returned to nearly the same spot as a new plaque was dedicated at Mission:SPACE. Once again there was a group countdown. Although the spectacle that followed couldn't measure up to a shuttle launch it was magic way to unveil a special message from our first teacher-astronaut in space, Barbara Morgan. During the dedication, she spoke about her adventures in space describing it as a dream come true. As she shared stories of floating in space and her magnificent view through the shuttles window my mind wandered to the various ways Disney has inspired my interest in the future including space travel.
Growing up, Tomorrowland was always a highlight of the family trip to Disneyland. Often we arrive there via Skyway from Fantasyland. I loved the journey over Fantasyland and through the Matterhorn to wave at Harry the Abominable Snowman then continuing over the crystal clear waters of Submarine Voyage. If you were lucky a Monorail would be snaking its way around below as well. We would often leave Tomorrowland by train to ensure a trip through the dioramas — my dad loves dinosaurs.
My dad also loved the ocean and we'd be sure to visit the Submarine Voyage which was fine for me as I, too, loved the ocean. The idea of traveling and living within the deep blue sea captured my imagination. I enjoyed the glass bottom boat rides I'd experienced but something about stepping under the water and viewing the creatures from the same level as opposed to from above was really fascinating. I wondered about the possibility of living under the sea and developing a new diet and such based upon its treasures in similar ways to Captain Nemo. I'd seen news stories of underwater hotels and wondered if in the future people might live there, too.
Enjoying the breezes and beautiful views from the Peoplemover, my father would always take a moment to share his dismay that Los Angeles had not been more forward thinking. If they had we would've arrived at Disneyland via peoplemover or monorail. My mom and all us kids would smile and nod. We'd heard it before but we waited knowing we'd have the discussion again. He was and remains terribly fond of these clean mass transit options but I know he also had a soft spot for Walt's visionary nature as well. I wondered if I would be saying the same to my children or would such systems of travel become a part of city life in the future.
Another attraction that would spark family conversation about the future was Mission to Mars. If we had a long wait until our expected departure I'd sneak over to the Starcade and enjoy Steeplechase or Pinbot. I loved both and they were a special part of my Disneyland trips. The idea of regular travel into space was exciting. I'd seen a space shuttle land and expected regular flights to space to be possible as an adult. Disney offered a small taste of the excitement and adventure. That simple attraction out past the moon and off towards the mysterious red planet offered a glimpse into the vast universe that we still had yet to explore. I loved knowing that there were still discoveries to be made and places to explore.
In writing this I've uncovered another thing that makes the Disney theme parks special to me. It's that spirit of discovery and enthusiasm for the future. Not only as the message of the attractions themselves but in the fact that the parks are always changing and evolving. In hearing the stories today about space travel and in recalling my memories of Tomorrowland I'm reminded that tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities to be explored. It's new and exciting, full of potential. For my alarm tomorrow I'm going to set Discovery Day from the All New Mickey Mouse Club and recall the words of Astronaut Barbara Morgan, "Reach for your dreams . .. the sky is no limit."