When you think of Disney World classics, the Space Mountain ride is always top of that list. Opening in 1975, Space Mountain quickly grew in fame and became known as one of the most thrilling and most futuristic rides in the Magic Kingdom.
To this day, Space Mountain is the crown jewel of Tomorrowland, and always has a long line, (you will need a Fastpass,) but the ride holds quite a few classic Disney World secrets you probably didn’t know.
What is Space Mountain?
First let’s discuss what Space Mountain in Disney is, what the premise is and why it is a great ride. Space Mountain is a dark ride and rollercoaster combined. The entire ride takes place in the dark, without the rider seeing the track or the direction the car will go next.
In the ride, you first board your spaceships before beginning a launch sequence and launching into space. Once in space, your rocket careens through stars while climbing up and dipping back down. Eventually, your rocket ascends back to Earth where you exit and head up the very long exit queue with space themed displays.
Space Mountain is thrilling, fast, and unique. This ride became an instant classic upon opening, and is still beloved today.
Is Space Mountain Scary?
Space Mountain is not deemed as “scary” but instead, “thrilling.” With the entirety of the ride operating in the dark, this ride is perfect for those with a fear of heights.
The Space Mountain ride in Disney is not itself tall. It also does not contain any extremely steep or long drops. If the coaster were to have the lights on, it is quite tame. The thrill element is added by the darkness which causes the rider to not know which way the rocket will go.
That all being said, if a fear of the dark is something you suffer with, this ride may be too much for you.
What is the Track Layout Like in Space Mountain in Disney World?
The Space Mountain track layout seems a bit messy. The track overlaps itself and the mirrored side many times. In Walt Disney World, the coaster has two identical sides that that are mirrored and can operate at the same time to up ride capacity.
The track begins with the loading platform, riders then make a slight turn and a small drop before heading into the “launch sequence.” In the launch sequence the rockets speed up in a tunnel of blue lights before making a sharp left or right (depending on which track you are on,) turn to the lift hill.
From here, the rockets twist and turn and dip and climb back up before eventually heading into a small helix and a couple more dips. After, the rockets will re-enter Earth in a tunnel of red light, then head to the unloading platform. According to many track layout diagrams, the unloading takes place very close to the loading area, just lower.
Below is a mock up of the track layout of the Space Mountain ride in Disney World.
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When did Space Mountain Open in Disney World?
Space Mountain debuted in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom on January 15, 1975 after a little over three years of construction. This was also about two years prior to the Disneyland version opening.
What are the Space Mountain Ride Cars Like at Disney World?
In Disneyland the Space Mountain cars hold more people, twice as many in fact. The Space Mountain ride in Disney World has cars that are shaped like rockets and can hold 6 people in single file.
The rocket does have a hinge in the center, between the 3rd and 4th person. This helps the rockets to navigate the tight turns and dips. The rockets are known for being tight, and many people with longer legs find them quite uncomfortable. If you need more room to spread out, be sure to avoid the 1st and 4th seats, they are in the front of their connected cars and offer much less legroom.
For the most thrilling experience, aim to sit in the farthest back seats of your car.
Does the Space Mountain Ride at Disney World Ever Run with the Lights on?
The short answer is no. The Space Mountain ride in Disney World, or Disneyland will not operate for guests with the lights on. If the lights are on. it means the ride is undergoing maintenance or repairs. This maintenance is typically done at night out of the view of guests.
The only time you may see the ride operating with the lights on is if the ride experiences a breakdown while you are riding. If this is the case, the lights will come on as you exit the ride.
Another way to witness Space Mountain without the space darkness is the ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority during a breakdown. The TTA travels right through Space Mountain above the queue.
What is the Space Mountain queue like?
The Space Mountain queue operates in two lines, the regular line and the fastpass line. After a flight of stairs and a very long walk up a slight incline, these two lines will merge at “Launch Control.”
During busy times, the lines will then be split again to access both sides of the ride. One line will be sent to the right, or the “Omega” side. While the other line will head to the left, or “Alpha” side.
When times are slow, once the Fastpass line merges, all guests will follow just one line to one side of the ride. In our experience, the “Omega” side is typically the side that operates the most often. In fact, we attended Disney for years, always during off times, before we had ever even accessed the “Alpha” side.
Has Anyone Ever Been Injured on Space Mountain?
As with most amusement park rides, the Space Mountain ride in Disney World has seen some incidents, as well as a few deaths. Space Mountain does see minor injuries like sprained neck or headaches from the jerkiness of the ride. But these instances are small and while not uncommon, they are not serious.
A serious incident did occur where a passenger received a head injury which caused him to become paralyzed in his left arm. It was discovered that a guest above on the ride had dropped a souvenir accidentally. Disney has put storage places for all objects carried onto rides to prevent further instances.
Space Mountain has seen a few deaths, all were from natural causes from guests riding with severe heart or pre-existing conditions.
Is There a Height Limit for the Space Mountain Ride in Disney World?
Yes, the height limit is 44 inches. This height requirement is in place to ensure younger riders can fit in the restraints to remain safe during their space travel.
How Has Space Mountain Changed?
Space Mountain has seen few changes over the years, until recently. Recently, the exit queue saw the removal of the moving walkway. This was always our favorite feature as children, and it is sad to see it go.
The walkway would carry you up the incline to the exit while traveling past futuristic ad displays that were full of whimsy. Some of the displays and experiences remain, but not all of them.
Now, there is a switchback ramp guests must climb rather than riding the moving walkway up the incline to the gift shop.
It is suspected the moving walkway was removed due to guest injuries. The new ramp is also ADA accessible, while before it was not.
Another change of Space Mountain came to the entrance queue. Along the queue line, interactive vide game screens and controllers were installed in 2009. These games lasted almost 10 years before being removed in 2018 for space graphics to be shown on the screens.
Space Mountain Secrets
Space Mountain Was Ahead of its Time
When we say the Space Mountain ride was ahead of its time, we mean it. In fact, it was so ahead of its time that the concept had to wait ten whole years before it could be built.
Space Mountain as a concept was initialized in the early to mid- sixties, but the computer technology did not yet exist to design or run the ride. Imagineers knew they wanted the ride to feel as realistic as possible. To do that, they needed to design and run the ride with computers, which could not yet handle the task.
Ten years later, technology had caught up to the futuristic thinking of Imagineers, and the Space Mountain ride concept was finally realized.
Completely Computer Controlled
Completely computer controlled is a bit of an alliteration tongue twister, but Space Mountain handles it well. The ride is controlled by a very ahead of its time system that managed the cars on the track to keep everyone safe.
The Space Mountain ride is a rollercoaster where many trains are on the tracks at once. This increases ride capacity while keeping the trains small enough to navigate the sharp turns and sudden drops that make the ride so thrilling.
With so many trains on the track you may be wondering how trains are kept from colliding into each other. Here is where the ground-breaking (for its time,) computer technology comes in.
Space Mountain has a set of brakes on every straight section of track, the computer’s job is to keep the trains at least one set of brakes away from each other. If the trains get too close, the computer will stop or slow down the train that is too close until the one ahead of it has moved a safe distance away.
If you’ve ever ridden Space Mountain and wondered why you suddenly were stopped or slowed, safety is why. For a more complete explanation of how the Space Mountain ride operates safely, here is an awesome video.
What is Hidden in the Dark?
Space Mountain takes place entirely in the dark and was the first fully enclosed roller coaster. But, the dark is more than just a thematic element.
The dark in the ride hides the space travelers from seeing how many trains are on the track, as well as the support beams, which are everywhere. Don’t believe me? Check out this POV video of Space Mountain with the lights on.
Another benefit of the dark is to make the ride more thrilling. Space Mountain only has a top speed of 28 miles per hour, which is very low for a thrill ride. While navigating twists and turns in the dark, the speed feels faster.
Lastly, the dark hides the view of the People Mover from the space Travelers on the Space Mountain ride.
Disney Loves Strategic Heights
Disney is known for making buildings very specific heights. For example, Cinderella’s Castle is exactly one foot below the height where a red light would be required to be on top. They also do this to force the eye to focus on certain things and used forced perspective to make buildings appear taller.
When it comes to the tallest building in the Magic Kingdom park, the Space Mountain ride comes in number two. Imagineers and park designers wanted Cinderella’s Castle to be the tallest focal point when seeing Magic Kingdom from afar.
Space Mountain comes in at 183 feet tall at the top of the tallest spire, while the castle is 5 feet taller at its tallest point.
The Underground Side of Space Mountain
While the Space Mountain ride building is just a few feet shorter than Cinderella’s Castle, to keep it smaller than the castle, the mountain was built fifteen feet lower than the base of Tomorrowland.
This explains why you immediately head downstairs upon entering the queue. The vast majority of the Space Mountain ride queue is completely underground.
Space Mountain’s Siblings
The Space Mountain ride is located in almost every single Disney park (5 out of 6). The original (OG) Space Mountain ride was built in Disney World in Florida, with a smaller version in Disneyland, and other versions in Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland.
Shanghei Disneyland is the only Disney resort without a Space Mountain.
Astronauts and the Space Mountain Ride
Disney is well known for their commitment to accuracy and theming. To make the Space Mountain ride as accurate as possible, and make guests feel like astronauts, Imagineers consulted with real life astronaut Gordon Cooper.
Gordon Cooper worked as a consultant to help Imagineers understand how it felt to be in and launch into space.
Space Mountain’s Exoskeleton
The support beams that make up the ride of Space Mountain are located on the outside the building, rather than the inside.
The reason for this is two-fold. The exterior support beams make the cone shaped structure of Space Mountain look more futuristic, which blends perfectly with its theming.
The support beams on the outside causes the inside of the cone to have a flat surface. This flat surface is used for projecting stars and space themes to ensure a more realistic feel for riders. At one point, an asteroid was even projected to float across the ceiling occasionally. Unfortunately, that effect is no longer used.
The Space Mountain Ride Mirror
The Space Mountain ride in Disney World has two identical, but mirrored tracks. When the queue splits into two lines, each line leads to a different track. The line to the left heads to “Track A” which is about 10 feet longer to bring the rockets to the same area for the lift hill.
Originally the tracks were planned to each be different, with one side having more drops and dips, and one side having more sharp turns, but that concept never came to fruition, as it was cheaper to build two identical tracks. The tracks under this concept were originally called alpha and omega.
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