Space Mountain is the name of a space-themed indoor roller coaster attraction located at five of the Magic Kingdom-style Disney Parks (all except for Shanghai Disneyland Park). Although all five versions of the attraction are different in nature, all have a similar domed exterior façade that is a landmark for the respective park. The first Space Mountain ride opened in 1975 at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and similar attractions were then eventually built at the other Disney parks.
Walt Disney World
The Space Mountain concept was a descendant of the first Disney "mountain" attraction, the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, which opened in 1959. The Matterhorn's success had convinced Walt Disney that thrilling rides did have a place in his park.
WED partnered with Arrow Development Company, the same company that had helped design the Matterhorn's roller coaster systems years before. The initial concept was to have four separate tracks, but the technology available at the time, combined with the amount of space required versus that which was available within Disneyland, made such a design impossible. Walt Disney's death in December 1966 and the new emphasis on preparing for the newly announced Disney World project forced WED to put aside the design of Space Mountain indefinitely. The Magic Kingdom's early success, and its unexpected popularity with teens and young adults, prompted WED to begin planning thrill rides for the new park shortly after its opening in October 1971.
A new Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction was considered, but it wouldn't fit within Florida's Fantasyland. Ultimately, designers returned to designing Space Mountain. The Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland had the right amount of available land, and computing technology had improved significantly since the initial design phases. However, it was decided the mountain would be built outside the park, on the opposite side of the train tracks that act as the perimeter of the park. To help cover the cost of developing and building Space Mountain, Card Walker, the CEO of Walt Disney Productions, convinced RCA chairman Robert Sarnoff to sponsor the new attraction; RCA was contracted by Disney to provide the communications hardware for the Walt Disney World Resort, and their contract stated that if Disney presented an attraction of interest, RCA would provide USD$10 million to support it. Space Mountain then opened on January 15, 1975.
The success of Walt Disney World's Space Mountain prompted designers to revisit their original plan to build one for Disneyland. After two years of construction, the $20 million complex opened on May 27, 1977, including the roller coaster, 1,100-seat Space Stage, 670-seat Space Place (fast food restaurant) and Starcade.
Six of the original seven Mercury astronauts attended Space Mountain's opening — Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Senator John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. The lone exception was Gus Grissom, who had died in the Apollo 1 fire ten years earlier. Largely due in part to the opening of Space Mountain, the Memorial Day day attendance record was set, with 185,500 guests over the three-day period. Space Mountain at Disneyland was designed by Bill Watkins of Walt Disney Imagineering, including a tubular steel track design awarded U.S. Patent 4,029,019. The track layout was different from that in Florida because of space limitations in the California park.
Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland opened with the park on April 15, 1983. It was the first version of Space Mountain to open concurrently with the park. From its opening in 1983 and until late 2006, Tokyo Disneyland's Space Mountain was an almost exact clone of Disneyland's Space Mountain. The ride was then redesigned to have a more sci-fi futuristic look to it, with new effects, and a new space port which features a futuristic space ship hanging from the ceiling. Like its Walt Disney World counterpart, there is no ride audio to the seats.
The version at Disneyland Paris opened on June 1, 1995, three years after the opening of the park. It was originally called De la Terre à la Lune, and was originally designed as a view on space travel from a Jules Verne-era perspective, based on the novel From the Earth to the Moon. The track is significantly different from the other four, as it's the only one to include a launch and inversions. It underwent modifications in 2005 and became Space Mountain: Mission 2. This journey was slightly different to the first as it took riders beyond the Moon, to the very edge of our universe. Again, in January 2015 the ride closed for yet another refurbishment. The ride was reopened in August 2015. Another refurbishment is planned in 2017 that will change the ride vehicles. This is the only version of Space Mountain that involves inversions.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Space Mountain at Hong Kong Disneyland is based on the refurbished Space Mountain at Disneyland, with a similar soundtrack and the same layout. It also features new show elements not presented in the refurbished California version (i.e. a "hyperspeed" tunnel). It will not feature the Rockin' Space Mountain configuration that was featured in Disneyland's Space Mountain in 2007.
Unlike most Space Mountains, the boarding area for the attraction is quite small. Not present is a Space Station of its two most similar counterparts at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. Instead a dark queue featuring neon earth-tone colored planets along with star patterns decorate the area. Lining the walls of the station are colored neon light bars that are used for lighting and decoration.
- 1964: Walt Disney originally planned a roller coaster for Disneyland called Space Port, which would have featured four separate tracks. However, the plan was shelved due to limited space and the death of Walt Disney.
- 1973: The Imagineers return to the idea of Space Port and it later became Space Mountain for the new Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
- Early 1974: Construction begins on the ride.
- January 15, 1975: Space Mountain officially opens at the Magic Kingdom.
- Late 1975: After the success of the first Space Mountain, construction begins on the ride for Disneyland.
- May 27, 1977: Space Mountain officially opens at Disneyland along with a space stage, a space restaurant, and the Starcade.
- April 15, 1983: Space Mountain officially opens at Tokyo Disneyland, and is the first version to open when the park did.
- 1989: New trains are introduced in the Magic Kingdom.
- June 1, 1995: Space Mountain officially opens at Disneyland Paris. It is significantly different from the other versions as it is the only one to feature a launch and inversions.
- April 10, 2003: Disney announces that Space Mountain at Disneyland would close for a 2-year refurbishment which includes new trains, a new track replacement, and a new soundtrack by film composer, Michael Giacchino. It was expected to open by Disneyland's 50th Anniversary.
- September 2004: Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris closes to be changed to Space Mountain: Mission 2.
- 2005: Space Mountain: Mission 2 reopens at Disneyland Paris.
- July 15, 2005: Space Mountain reopens at Disneyland.
- September 12, 2005: Space Mountain officially opens at Hong Kong Disneyland along with the park.
- Late 2006: Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland closes for refurbishment.
- April 28, 2007: Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland reopens.
- September 24, 2007: The seasonal Halloween-themed Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy opens at Hong Kong Disneyland.
- October 2007: Space Mountain: Nightmare Nebula opens at Disneyland as part of Halloween-Time. It was considered a failure and never returned for the Halloween season.
- April 19, 2009: Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom closes for an extensive refurbishment.
- September 25, 2009: Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy opens at Disneyland for the Halloween season.
- November 21, 2009: Space Mountain reopens at Magic Kingdom
- August 2010: Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom receives "Starry-O-Phonic" sound.
- January 11, 2015: Space Mountain: Mission 2 cmajor refurbishment. It is expected to reopen on July 24, 2015 with the name being changed to "Space Mountain". The ride is also rumored to receive new trains as part of the 2nd phase of the refurbishment in 2017.
- January 15, 2015: Space Mountain celebrates its 40th anniversary at the Magic Kingdom.
- July 24, 2015: Space Mountain reopens at Disneyland Paris after a few days of soft opening. The refurbishment included a huge technical overhaul to have everything ready for the next refurbishment. The name hasn't changed and still no new trains.
- August 2015: At the D23 Expo, Hyperspace Mountain is announced as part of the Season of the Force celebration at Disneyland. The overlay will put riders into the Star Wars universe in X-Wing battles
- November 16, 2015: Hyperspace Mountain, the overlay at Disneyland based on Star Wars, opens as a part of the Season of the Force celebration.
- June 11, 2016: Hyperspace Mountain opens at Hong Kong
- Early 2017: New trains for Space Mountain: Mission 2 in Paris
- Surrell, Jason (2007). The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak. New York, New York: Disney Editions. pp. 37–49. ISBN 978-1-4231-0155-0.
- Surrell, p. 37.
- Surrell, pp. 38–40.
- Surrell, p. 40.
- Surrell, p. 41.
- Surrell, pp. 41–44
- Surrell, p. 43
- Yee, Kevin. "The Space Mountain Homepage (unofficial)". Ultimate Orlando. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- "Disneyland Resort: Space Mountain". Disneyland official site. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-08-24. Retrieved 2007-08-30.