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The facts about Space Mountain
It goes without saying that one of my favourite attractions at the Magic Kingdom is still Space Mountain. As a young lad, many years ago now, I can remember riding this space themed roller coaster for the very first time with my father. As a favourite of mine, and presumably of many others judging by it continued popularity, I am now riding this roller coaster with my own daughters.
Walking out of the ride on my last visit to the Magic Kingdom it struck me just how many years I had taken this attraction for granted. I can never remember Space Mountain NOT being there. So with my usual curiosity I decided I would find out a little more about this fabulous ride. I hope you find it as interesting.
The original plan for Space Mountain was for it to become a complex outdoor rollercoaster. It was originally expected that it would debut in Disneyland, California named as ‘Space Port’. The outdoor theme really only changed as a plan when it was decided that the ride would be built in Disney World first, where the sometimes stormy Floridian weather was not considered to work well with it. There are now many outdoor roller coasters in Florida today, but do remember that this concept was over 30 years ago when technologies were not as advanced as today. The ride was therefore designed to be housed inside a purpose built structure and for added thrill was set in the darkness of space. It was the design of this building that induced the idea of re-naming the ride ‘Space Mountain’.
Conceived in 1960 by Walt Disney himself as an imaginative ride highlighting the thrills of space travel, Space Mountain opened its ‘doors’ on the 15th January 1975 as the first ever Disney rollercoaster. It took more than 2 years worth of construction and it consisted of two mirrored tracks, Alpha on the left running at 3196 feet, and Omega on the right running at 3186 feet. Both tracks were contained within a building structure 183ft high by 300 feet wide. The track reaches an impressive height of 90 feet with the steepest drop at 39 degrees.
Contrary to the way it feels when riding the roller coaster, i. e. fast and furious with the element of surprise in the dark, it actually only travels at 28 miles per hour at its faster point. This is slower than almost every ‘coaster’ type thrill ride in the Magic Kingdom. Even Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is faster, yet is does not feel so. I personally think Space Mountain feels deceptively fast because the ride, apart from just at the start, is purely down!
Although little has changed in respect to the way Space Mountain looks and feels, do not be fooled by appearances. The Disney Corporation never keeps still and applies a strict maintenance management schedule to the ride. Disney has installed changes and technological improvements where necessary, as well as re-decoration and cosmetic changes to the theme. For example in 1989 all of the 52 coaster vehicles were changed – they may look the same but they hold less people and have been technically updated. Even more recently (2007) the track itself has been replaced.
Our family really enjoys riding Space Mountain and no matter how sophisticated, fast and steep other roller coasters become, we will always make a bee-line for this ride when visiting the Magic Kingdom. I am already looking forward to the next visit.
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