I Finally Rode Mission: Space, And I Don't Know Why People Think It's So Intense

·7 min read
 Mission: Space's signage, as seen at sundown.
Mission: Space's signage, as seen at sundown.

20 years ago this summer, Walt Disney World opened a thrill ride that, to this day, has an infamous reputation. After much fanfare and promotion, Mission: Space debuted with a promise to take guests on an intense training simulation for a Mars landing. What followed after that August 2003 opening day was a legacy that pegged the ride as an experience so intense, it became one of the many changes Epcot has undergone to cater to certain guests. After finally getting my first taste of space travel with the ISTC, I have to say, I don’t know why people think this experience is so intense.

The ISTC celebration signage in the Mission: Space queue.
The ISTC celebration signage in the Mission: Space queue.

Mission: Space’s Very Serious History Of Intensity

Admittedly, I can see where such concerns came from thanks to Mission: Space’s serious history with intensity. Early on in its life, the attraction saw two deaths due to unforeseen medical conditions, which didn’t exactly help cultivate an image of safety. Even with years of safe operation, there were some who thought this simulated mission to Mars went too hard. Because of that legacy, the experience of Mission: Space became an adventure of choice.

2006 would see the Green Mission introduced, which was the mission to Mars, but with a centrifuge effect. Further refurbishment in 2017 saw the Orange Mission (the original attraction) stay the same, with the Green Mission transforming into a sightseeing cruise in Earth’s orbit. Even to this day, as seen through some very recent Reddit posts, people are still decrying taking the Orange Mission as “choosing chaos.”

When it came time to make my first ever voyage on Mission: Space, chaos was definitely on the menu. Making a beeline to the attraction after riding the very popular Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, I closed out my recent visit to Epcot Center with the Orange Mission.

A view of the lit up control console inside Mission: Space.
A view of the lit up control console inside Mission: Space.

Why Finally Riding Mission: Space Was Such A Big Deal For Me

How Mission: Space Stacks Up Against Other Disney Thrills

A train running at night under the blue canopy on Tron Lightcycle Run.
A train running at night under the blue canopy on Tron Lightcycle Run.

If you’re concerned about the intensity of Mission: Space, this quick rundown of the level of G-forces experienced on this and other Walt Disney World attractions (sourced from Wikipedia) should help ease your mind.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Epcot) - 2G
Mission Space (Epcot) - 2.5G
Expedition Everest (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) - 3G
Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom) - 3.7G
Tron Lightcycle Run (Magic Kingdom) - 4G
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) - 5G

Ok, it's time for a small personal story that really brings my recent trip to Walt Disney World into focus. For a span of almost a decade, my family and I actually made annual trips to Orlando, with Disney being our main focus. Park Hopping was starting to become what we know it to be today, but it was before all the horrible restrictions everyone hates fell into place. The Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary celebration introduced that pink cake variant of the Cinderella’s Castle that everyone loves to complain about.

For several years, I was on top of all the new attractions and changes that Walt Disney World would make, even collecting the maps from each park whenever we’d visit. That was, until 2003, the year that Mission: Space opened, and the final time my family and I would go to Orlando together. Instead of Park Hopping, we spent one day at Disney and a couple of days at Universal Orlando.

Since one of my brothers got to pick the Disney park for that trip, and as he wasn’t much for rides, he chose for our only day at Walt Disney World to take place at the Magic Kingdom. After a summer of my other brother and I anticipating our first mission to Mars, we were scrubbed from launch. While I finally got to come face to face with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, another life ambition fulfilled, Mars wasn’t in the cards. Thanks to that, Mission: Space became my Mount Everest for whenever I would return.

Matt Damon in The Martian.
Matt Damon in The Martian.

What My Mission: Space Experience Was Like

So did Mission: Space hold up to my expectations, infamy and all? Yes and no. On the one hand, the EPCOT attraction matched my expectations as a thrill ride I’d absolutely enjoy. But on the other hand, it wasn’t as intense as people had made it out to be, especially after several rides on the Tron Lightcycle Run. Also, there was an added challenge that awaited me thanks to the rest of my boarding group ditching me, turning my Mars mission into a solo trip.

As far as I’m concerned, that made the trip even more exciting. The Martian is one of my favorite books and comfort movies, so going to Mars by myself just goosed the excitement of it all. Sure enough, when the simulator started, and those G-forces kicked in, I was excited beyond belief. Performing the duties of every crew position but Navigator, I was able to enjoy this attraction to the fullest. Though technically, I was operating as the commander of this mission, so I’d like to think taking on some extra duties was just part of my job anyway.

While I definitely still want to try out the Green Mission for comparison and fun, Orange Mission was the sort of experience I was looking for when Mission: Space first captivated my imagination 20 years ago. Though I didn’t fly under Gary Sinise’s watch like the first wave of guests did, serving under Firefly and 9-1-1 Lone Star’s Gina Torres still amped up the excitement surrounding this attraction.

The X2 Deep Space Shuttle model, as presented in the queue for Mission: Space.
The X2 Deep Space Shuttle model, as presented in the queue for Mission: Space.

Should You Worry About Riding Mission: Space?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone should worry about Mission: Space, simply because there’s a lot of warning beforehand about what to expect. Claustrophobia is probably the greatest concern, as the seats in the simulator feel more boxed in than a typically more open coaster. So long as you follow the instructions, Orange Mission shouldn’t present too much of a trial.

But even if you want to play it casual and just have fun above the Earth, that’s cool too. If anything, I’m definitely taking a Green Mission spin next time out, just to get the whole picture. So if you’re worried about intensity, maybe hit the Green Mission first as a warm-up if you haven’t already taken in some of Walt Disney World’s other thrill rides. Word on the street is the wait time for Mission: Space is hardly ever long thanks to the supposed waning popularity of the experience, so you could very well be hitting this one first thing when the park opens.

I may never truly get to Mars, because space travel capabilities and training are things that stand in the way of that hypothetical thrill ride. However, I did get to finally ride Mission: Space, and it was very much an experience to write home about. Now if I could just get another family vacation to Disney on the books, I’ll be able to get my brother on this attraction and close the book on this story once and for all.

Should you choose to go to Mars yourself, Mission: Space is currently accepting ISTC training candidates at Epcot Center. But don’t let that be the end to all the Disney thrills you’re looking to take in on your next trip. If you want to see everything new coming to Walt Disney World, we’ve got a handy guide listing just that. And if you still trust my ride recommendations, then you should definitely check my Tron Lightcycle Run review, which officially opens to the public on April 4th. Though if you’re lucky, you can potentially get into the soft opening, which is currently running until April 2nd.