Monday, October 20, 2008

The Lost Message of Mission:SPACE

One of the many criticisms leveled against the destruction of the much-loved Horizons in favor of Mission:SPACE was that the new attraction had replaced the optimistic message "if we can dream it, then we can do it" with no message at all. (Except, perhaps "a trip to Mars would be cool." ) But if you examine the attraction's logo, you'll notice a very inspirational message: "We Choose To Go!" This is, of course, taken from JFK's famous speech of September 12, 1962, specifically, this moment:

Now, I know that the sole reason for the Apollo program was to beat the Soviet Union, I know that Kennedy privately complained that the space program messed up his budget, but that speech contains some of the most inspirational words spoken in the last hundred years. That is what Mission:SPACE needs. That message is the key to transforming Mission:SPACE from just another 5-minute thrill ride to something that genuinely inspires guests and gives them something to think about. Let's face it, as much as some folks would love to see Disney scrap Mission:SPACE altogether and rebuild Horizons, it's not going to happen. Mission:SPACE cost a lot to build, and it's not going anywhere for a very long time. And anyway, the premise of Mission:SPACE is a fundamentally good one, it just needs some tweaks to make it more than just another fun ride.

1. Change the pre-show to dispense with the whole "training" premise: Tomorrowland's old "Mission to Mars" attraction was billed as a "real" trip to Mars, even though all you did was sit in a vibrating chair and watch a round screen on the floor. Why not alter the story of Mission:SPACE so that guests are astronauts who board a spaceship instead of just a simulator? Use the pre-show to review the history of manned spaceflight and emphasize what a huge undertaking a flight to Mars would be; emphasizing that, despite the challenges and the hardship, we can make it to Mars if "we choose to go".

2. Make this the first-ever Mars mission: Since guests will "really" go to Mars, why not make them the first humans to land on the Red Planet instead of simply following in the footsteps of others? Plenty of opportunity there to inject the "we choose to go" message.

3. Alter the post-show area to reflect the idea that we've "landed" on Mars: Part of the ride's story could be that an unmanned ship landed earlier with a prefab habitat for the astronauts to live in. At the conclusion of the simulator ride, your ship could "dock" with the habitat, and the post-show area could be remodeled slightly to reflect this. Inside the post-show "Marsbase" you could have a couple educational exhibits about what Mars is really like, including, perhaps, a virtual-reality experience that allows you to play the part of an astronaut walking around on the Martian surface. Of course, this approach presents a story problem: if post-show area is also for people who are unable or unwilling to experience the ride, how do they "get to Mars"? I really don't know, but I'm sure the Imagineers could figure something out.

Now, in the EXTREMELY unlikely event that someone is reading this, I just want to say that I claim no ownership of these ideas. If someone who actually has the ear of Disney Imagineering wanted to claim them as their own, that's fine with me. Heck, I can't imagine that I'm the first person to have thought of any of this stuff. So come on, Disney. Let Mission:SPACE have its message. It's right there in the logo, some of the most inspirational words of the last century. Use 'em.


  1. I like your ideas on Mission: Space. I can say that it inspires my son - he always says it's his favorite ride, tied with Test Track. (He's 8 years old.) But beyond the thrills, he has gotten interested in Mars, and in space travel in general (at an 8 year old level). I too think the postshow could be much better - frankly, I usually drag him right past it, because it just seems like a bunch of silly games to me. But I don't mind the premise of the ride - the training theme - too much. It's fairly well done IMO...

  2. Hiya, Scott! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I'm glad your son enjoys Mission:Space as much as I enjoyed Horizons at his age. Last time I was there, my wife and I played the game where you divide into competing teams and race back to Earth. It wasn't bad; I imagine kids would really enjoy it.


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