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Mission: Space was created as a centrifuge-based space simulator that spins riders around a central axis to simulate the g-forces of rocket liftoff and, eventually, a moment of weightlessness. It was one of the most popular rides at Disney World until two guests died after riding it in 2005 and 2006. While neither death was linked directly to the attraction, the negative publicity caused many guests to skip it entirely. In response, Disney added a tamer nonspinning version in 2006.
Disney’s lawyers probably clocked as much time as the ride engineers in designing the “lite” version. Even before you walk into the building, you’re asked whether you want your ride with or without spin. Choose the spinning version and you’re on the Orange team; the Green team trains on the no-spin side. Either way, you’re immediately handed the appropriate “launch ticket” containing the first of myriad warnings, as this Unofficial Guide reader discovered:
I chose the more intense version and was handed the Orange launch ticket to read. Basically, it explained that if I had ever had a tonsillectomy or even a mild case of pattern baldness, I should take the less intense ride.
Mission: Space’s Orange version is a journey to Mars. The Green version, which takes you orbiting around Earth, is comparatively smooth and mild enough for first-time astronauts.
This San Antonio reader says you don’t give up much by choosing the Green option:
I am 65 and have ridden the Orange version a number of times. On our latest trip, we went on the Orange version again and felt a little uncomfortable. My wife suggested that we try the Green version, which I mistakenly believed was some sort of boring mission-control exercise where we would sit behind a computer. The Green version gave us a great experience, including the feeling of lift-off and zero gravity, without the nausea.
A Nashville, Tennessee, reader tried both versions:
I felt the Green was a little lacking, but then Orange was more than I was expecting—the g-force made me want to puke.
Guests for both versions enter the International Space Training Center, where they’re introduced to the deep-space exploration program and then divided into groups for flight training. After orientation, they’re strapped into space capsules for a simulated flight, where, of course, the unexpected happens. Each capsule accommodates a crew consisting of a group commander, pilot, navigator, and engineer, with a guest functioning in each role. The crew’s skill and finesse (or, more often, lack thereof) in handling their respective responsibilities have no effect on the outcome of the flight.
The capsules are small, and both ride versions are amazingly realistic. The nonspinning (Green) version doesn’t subject your body to g-forces, but it does bounce and toss you around in a manner roughly comparable to other Disney motion simulators. A Bradenton, Florida, mom found motion sickness to be the least of her problems:
I’d like to see warnings here about claustrophobia—I had no clue until the capsule closed that it would be so tight in there. I went into full panic mode.
We’re told that the posted wait time for the Orange version is always higher than the Green one to give those on the fence about riding a nudge toward trying the tamer version. Disney can reconfigure the ride’s four centrifuges to either Orange or Green based on guest demand.
Having experienced the industrial-strength Mission: Space under a variety of circumstances, we’ve always felt icky when riding it on an empty stomach, especially first thing in the morning, so we looked around for an expert to tell us why. Because NASA is a codeveloper of Mission: Space and an authority on the effect of g-forces on the human body, we called them. However, they were reluctant to pass along anything resembling medical advice to the general public.
Fortunately, a longtime friend put us in touch with a real NASA astronaut who was willing to share (anonymously) some ideas on what causes the nausea, as well as some tips for preventing it. Our expert guesses, as we do, that low blood sugar is the culprit and suggests eating a normal meal 1–2 hours before experiencing the ride. Avoid milk and tomatoes— they’re hard to keep down and, as our contact noted with the voice of experience, particularly unpleasant if they come back up (bananas, we hear, are a better choice.) Another trick of the astronaut trade is to suck on a piece of hard candy or a mint; it’s not clear, though, whether the candy helps keep blood-sugar levels high or is just a placebo. If all else fails, each simulator has motion-sickness bags.
Hit the john before you get in line—you’ll think your bladder really has been to Mars and back before you get out of this one.
Few things delight our readers more than kibitzing about rides that can make you vomit, and Mission: Space is at the top of this particular heap. From a Yakima, Washington, reader:
Mission: Space is awesome. Quite a few people we spoke to didn’t ride because they were intimidated by the warnings about motion sickness.
A woman from Lisbon, Connecticut, used Mission: Space as her own personal relationship lab:
We now understand why husbands and wives will probably never go to space together, after I (the “navigator”) pushed his (the “pilot’s”) button during the flight. I couldn’t help being a backseat driver—we could have crashed!
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Here's roughly how many minutes you'll wait for Mission: SPACE Green at each EPCOT Crowd Level.
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