Space Mountain - The First 25 Years,

Space Mountain - The First 25 Years
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by Doobie Moseley
January 18, 2000
On January 15, 1972 Space Mountain debuted at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. 25 years later, with four versions around the world, it remains one of the most popular Disney attractions of all time.

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Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

In 1964 Walt Disney held a series of meetings to discuss a concept called the SpacePort. It was to be the centerpiece of Disneyland's New Tomorrowland of 1967. In June of 1966 the attraction became officially known as Space Mountain ... and it was put on hold. Five years later in 1975, 3000 miles away at Walt Disney World, Disney and RCA jointly announced a new attraction that would be "the Nation's most breathtaking thrill ride." At that point it was called Space Voyage. When it opened three years later, on January 15, 1975, it was known as Space Mountain and a Disney favorite was born. Similar versions of Space Mountain would appear in all four Disney resorts, first at Disneyland (May 4, 1977) then Tokyo Disneyland (April 15, 1983) and finally in an all new incarnation called Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon at Disneyland Paris (June 1, 1995).

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Disneyland's Space Mountain

Space Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is 300 feet in diameter and 183 feet high. The left track, called "Alpha" is 3,196 feet long and the right track, Omega, is 3,186 feet. Top speed is 28 m.p.m and ride time is approximately 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The first official ride was taken by Colonel James Irwin, the pilot of the Lunar Module on Apollo XV. Space Mountain was an immediate hit and shortly after its opening construction began on Disneyland's Space Mountain. Disneyland's Space Mountain has a diameter of only 200 feet and, to prevent it from dominating Disneyland's skyline, it was sunk 17 feet into the ground. It has only one track, but its length of 3,450 surpasses each of Walt Disney World's tracks. It's top speed is 32 m.p.h. In 1996 speakers were added to Disneyland's Space Mountain and Dick Dale rendition of Camille Saint-Saens' Aquarium was blasted through them in sync with the ride. At the grand opening of Disneyland's Space Mountain were the six surviving astronauts from the original seven astronauts of Project Mercury and the widow of the seventh.

Tokyo Disneyland's Space Mountain is almost an exact copy of Disneyland's, and it's just as popular. When designing Space Mountain for Disneyland Paris, Imagineers decided to do something completely different. The result is an attraction with an uphill launch followed by three inversions, all with a synchronized soundtrack. The music, La Voie Stellair (The Star Way) was composed by Steve Bramson. Space Mountain: From the Earth to the Moon is one of the best experiences Disney has ever delivered.

We asked two former Imagineers to tell us their Space Mountain stories. The first, Bob Gurr, is known for creating the vehicles of Disneyland. He worked with Walt Disney and is perhaps best known for coming up with the indestructible Autopia cars. The second, Alastair Dallas, was hired specifically to work on Disneyland's Space Mountain.

Bob Gurr

I directed the body engineering for Space Mountain/Disneyland while training some new guys. Did the body design for Space Mountain/Walt Disney World (WDW). The WDW track gave some negative "g" which upset a number of guests, who wrote hundreds of complaining letters. Marty Sklar "forced" us to read every one. The track was steadily tamed thereafter. I remember that during testing the ride always had the work light on so the guys could see where the cars were going. Knowing that I don't like roller coasters, the guys invited me to ride.....they turned off the lights for the first time. They roared with laughter at my misery. Space Mountain/WDW was Disney's first attempt at doing their own coaster design and manufacture. I designed the Matterhorn track layout but Arrow built it. Bill Watkins and Don Hilsen were the math genius's who figured out the whole thing.

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