Tomorrowland had a rough start when the parks first opened both at Disneyland and Disney World. The futuristic-themed sector of the park barely had any rides and even less money to fund the innovative endeavors that Walt Disney wanted to create. Space Mountain finally opened at Disney World in 1975 and at Disneyland in 1977, creating one of the more thrilling rides at Disney parks.
The concept for Space Mountain began long before its grand opening. But due to the lack of technology available at the time, Space Mountain had to be put on the back burner for ten years. There’s a lot of undisclosed details that you may not know about this ride, like the fact that its' designer gets credit for creating another Disney icon. So if you want to be in the loop about this Disney knowledge, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Space Mountain.
10 Mickey's Designer Created Space Mountain
John Hench is the legend behind this ride's design, working on it in the early 1960s alongside Walt Disney. Hench began working for Disney in 1939 as a story artist, where he later became known as the official artist of Mickey Mouse. For Mickey’s 25th, 50th, 60th, 70th, and 75th birthdays, he painted Mickey Mouse’s official portraits.
You can even find Hench's name on the actual ride. In the queue, if you look up, you’ll see the name, Captain J. Hench.
9 The First Computer-Operated Roller Coaster
Concepts for the ride began in the '60s, but it took well over a decade for technology to catch up with the ride. Computers at the time took hours to put together a single curve in the track. Then, the project was further stalled after the death of Walt Disney in 1966.
Resuming for this roller coaster began just a few short years later when machinery was no longer limited. The ride's claim to fame includes its success as the first-ever fully computer operated coaster. Space Mountain first appeared at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in 1975, making a name for itself for its "futuristic" installment.
8 There Are Two Different Tracks
While there is only one track available at Disneyland, there are actually two separate tracks on the Magic Kingdom ride. You can either choose to write Alpha or Omega. There’s not that much of a difference except for the length for the ride.
The Alpha track is stretched further, so the ride lasts a little bit longer. Omega’s track is at 3,186 feet while the Alpha track is at 3,196 feet.
7 It Only Goes 28 MPH
It may not seem like it, but Space Mountain is actually pretty slow. In fact, it only reaches up to 28 mph. That makes Space Mountain one of the slowest rides in Disney parks.
Pretty wild, right? The sudden drops, the enclosed space, and a number of fans help create the illusion of a much faster ride. By comparison, the only ride slower than Space Mountain is a children’s roller coaster named Barnstormer which reaches 25 mph.
6 It Costs More Than The Park
Space Mountain is a technological phenomenon. And those advancements didn’t come cheap. The total amount of components for this ride earned a cost upwards of $18 million by the time it launched in 1975.
Compared to Disneyland's grand opening price tag at $17 million, it seems that there was a lot riding on Space Mountain's computer-generated technology.
5 Astronauts Helped Build the Ride
Astronaut Gordon Cooper was a creative consultant for Space Mountain when the concept first emerged. Naturally, Disney wanted the most authentic experience, despite the fact that in the 1950s and '60s, concepts like Space Mountain were way on their time.
The final result got a stamp of approval from the former astronaut, who said that Space Mountain, "is about as close as you can safely get to actually being in space."
4 First-Ever Indoor Roller Coaster
In addition to being the first-ever computer operator roller coaster, Space Mountain is the first-ever indoor roller coaster. The idea to make this ride an indoor roller coaster stems from the fact that Disney Imagineers wanted to create an immersive experience that couldn’t really be portrayed in the California or Florida daylight.
This indoor roller coaster concept has been re-commissioned for rides in other theme parks, such as Universal Studios Mummy ride.
3 Disney World's Space Mountain Is Different From Disneyland
Besides some interior changes, the differences between the rides are palpable. Magic Kingdom‘s ride has more drops, while Disneyland's Space Mountain seems to have more twists and turns. In Disneyland, you can sit next to someone, but Walt Disney World's Space Mountain requires you to sit all by yourself.
The building for the Magic Kingdom version is also significantly higher than the Disneyland mountain. The infrastructure for Space Mountain in Walt Disney World is 180 feet high while California Space Mountain is 115 feet tall.
2 It Was Almost Called Space Port
Disney knew they had something special on their hands when the designs on Space Mountain became finalized. This meant giving the ride a memorable name that speaks to its industrialized concepts and abilities. Some additional names that came to mind for this now iconic coaster included "Space Port" and "Space Voyage."
Around 1966, Imagineers settled on Space Mountain which seems to be the perfect name to play on Disney fantasy theme in conjunction with the futuristic notions that the ride holds.
1 2,000 People Per Hour Can Ride Space Mountain
Despite the rides creeping speed, Space Mountain can get about 2,000 people through the ride in a single hour. This is pretty impressive especially for the Magic Kingdom ride which only has single rider seats.
Space Mountain is still one of the most popular rides at Disney parks, and there is almost sure to be a wait. But judging by this statistic, waiting to try out this iconic ride might not be as long as you think.