Space Mountain, the iconic space-themed roller coaster, has been a staple of Disneyland since its grand opening on May 27, 1977. This futuristic ride has captivated millions of visitors with its thrilling twists and turns in the dark, simulating a journey through outer space. But have you ever wondered about the history and development of this beloved attraction? In this article, we’ll delve into the inception, construction, and evolution of Space Mountain.
Space Mountain, the iconic space-themed roller coaster in Disneyland, was built over a two-year period starting from around 1975. It officially opened to the public on May 27, 1977. The construction of this thrilling ride was a significant project for Disneyland, marking a new era of innovation and excitement in the park.
The Conceptualization of Space Mountain
The idea for a space-themed roller coaster originated from Walt Disney himself, following the success of the Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1959. In a series of meetings in 1964, Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers, led by John Hench, conceived the idea of a Space Port, which would feature a steel track roller coaster with four separate tracks twisting and turning around each other.
However, due to the technological limitations of the time and the lack of available space in Disneyland, the project was postponed. The focus then shifted to the development of the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World.
Construction Begins: The Building of Space Mountain
The construction of Space Mountain officially began around 1975, two years before its grand opening. With advances in technology and the success of the Magic Kingdom park, Disney revived the Space Mountain project.
The design of Disneyland’s Space Mountain was created by Bill Watkins of Walt Disney Imagineering. The original plans for a four-track roller coaster were revised to a single track due to space constraints. Despite these limitations, Watkins and his team were able to design a thrilling ride that fit within a much smaller building.
The construction of Space Mountain was a significant undertaking, costing around $20 million. This ambitious project required the placement of 72 massive pre-stressed concrete beams to form a gigantic sealed cone, each beam being 117 feet long, 13 feet wide at the bottom, and 4 feet wide at the top.
Grand Opening and Public Reception
Space Mountain officially opened to the public on May 27, 1977. The ceremony was attended by several high-profile guests, including the original Mercury astronauts. The ride was met with overwhelming success, attracting long lines of eager visitors.
Evolution and Upgrades
Since its inception, Space Mountain has undergone several significant upgrades and renovations to improve the ride experience and incorporate new technologies. An onboard soundtrack was added in 1996, and the exterior was repainted in 1997 and 2003. The most significant renovation took place from 2003 to 2005, where the ride closed for a complete track replacement and reopened just in time for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary in 2005.
In addition to these major changes, there have been smaller updates and modifications over the years. The ride has also seen various thematic overlays, such as Ghost Galaxy during Halloween Time and Hyperspace Mountain, which incorporated a Star Wars theme.
Impact on Disneyland and Beyond
The construction of Space Mountain significantly influenced the overall landscape and attractions of Disneyland. It breathed new life into Tomorrowland and became a favorite among visitors. The ride’s success also inspired the creation of other “Mountain” attractions at Disney Parks, such as Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain.
Space Mountain’s unique design and thrilling experience have made it a timeless attraction, enjoyed by millions of visitors each year. Despite the challenges faced during its construction and operation, Space Mountain continues to be a testament to Disney’s commitment to innovation and the creation of unforgettable experiences.
In conclusion, Space Mountain, with its thrilling journey through the cosmos, has been an integral part of Disneyland since it first opened its doors in 1977. Its construction marked a significant milestone in the history of Disneyland, reflecting the park’s evolution and commitment to bringing innovative and exciting experiences to its visitors.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the Space Mountain ride last?
The Space Mountain ride lasts approximately 3 minutes.
Is Space Mountain suitable for all ages?
Due to its high speeds, sharp turns, and drops, Space Mountain is recommended for visitors who are at least 40 inches (102 cm) tall. It may not be suitable for younger children or people with certain medical conditions.
How fast does Space Mountain go?
Space Mountain reaches speeds of up to 28 miles per hour.
Is Space Mountain available at other Disney parks worldwide?
Yes, versions of Space Mountain have been built at all five Magic Kingdom-style parks around the world. This includes Disneyland Park in Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Has Space Mountain been featured in any films or TV shows?
Space Mountain has been referenced in various films and TV shows over the years. One notable example is the Disney movie “Tomorrowland,” where a scene features the iconic Space Mountain structure in the background.