The Fascinating History of Space Mountain

Photo by  Ken Lund

Photo by Ken Lund

Space Mountain is known as one of the best thrill rides Disney has to offer! Having a space in both Disneyland and Disney World (and 3 other Disney Parks worldwide), Space Mountain is one of Disney’s busiest and most sought-after attraction. With top speeds of 28 mph, this indoor coaster may sound slow but it’s anything but! Being that it’s in the dark throughout most of the ride, you feel like you’re zipping through space at 100mph!

Like most Disney theme park attractions, Space Mountain has a history of its own, which we’re going to explore in-depth in this post!

Original Concept Art for Space Mountain   Photo by  Kevin Simpson

Original Concept Art for Space Mountain

Photo by Kevin Simpson

Ahead of the Times

When one of Disney’s top imagineers John Hench originally design Space Mountain in the early 60’s, the technology wasn’t available to make the attraction come to life. Most of the design data needed to create the coaster was slow and took an immense amount of time to calculate curves, speeds and appropriate hardware required to create Space Mountain. Sadly, the designs for this iconic mountain had to wait nearly a decade before technology caught up with it. Once the tech arrived, work resumed and the roller coaster we know and love was finished in 1975!

First Passengers

Originally debuting in 1975, Space Mountain’s first guest passengers were actually 3 astronauts! Astronauts Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper and Jim Irwin (Mercury 7 mission) took off on the rides first ever launch on January 15th 1975! These brave men weren’t the only ones to take-off at the debut of this ride. Disney declared this ride “the nation’s most breathtaking thrill ride”, but not many of the guests understood what this could mean. On opening day hundreds of people jumped in and strapped themselves in, expecting a ride similar in ease as Peter Pan’s Flight. If you’ve ever ridden Peter Pan’s Flight and Space Mountain, you’ll know they are drastically different in thrill degrees. To many of the guests surprise, the ride they were expecting was anything but cute and Disney-esque! Being launched at high speeds on a roller coaster experienced in the dark shocked many guests and definitely brought up many of the guests lunch they previously had! It’s pretty obvious that this ride brought an unexpected attraction to Disney’s park guests, but it became an instant hit nonetheless! Many guests were impressed in Disney’s boldness to attempt rollercoaster-styled attractions, but were thrilled with the end result of Space Mountain!

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A New Type of Thrill

Disney never really knew for sure if fast thrill-type rides would ever be family-friendly enough for his theme parks. That’s why he intentionally created rides that were slow and simple. It’s A Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight and Pirates of the Caribbean are prime examples of Disney’s attempt to create attractions that captured the attention of the whole family. Disney would have continued to solely make slow rides if it wasn’t for the Matterhorn in Disneyland. After watching the success of the bobsled attraction and the joy it brought his guest, Disney was convinced thrill rides had a place in his parks. So basically we can thank the Matterhorn for Space Mountain!

First EVER!

In a high-tech world where everything in controlled by computers and machines, it’s wild to think there was a time where thinking, drawing on paper, and manually doing things was the only way we got things done. This is what makes Space Mountain even more impressive! Space Mountain was the world’s first EVER computer generated roller coaster and the first roller coaster ever to be controlled and ran by a computer! This fact may seem unimpressive in 2019, but it was an immense achievement that furthered technology advancements in it’s time!

Space Mountain is by-far one of the greatest rides Disney has created, and even through the 40+ years of its existence it’s still capturing our attention and love! Next time you enter this iconic mountain, hopefully you’ll appreciate it more because of the fascinating history that brought it to life!

Until next time, to Boardwalk and Beyond!