Mission: SPACE, Up Close and Personal

As I wrote a few weeks ago, one of my reasons for going to Epcot was to go on Mission: SPACE, a centrifuge simulator ride of a blast-off into and through space. There was virtually no line this time of year, which gave me little time to look at the pre-ride displays. Cutting to the chase ... I think I was somewhat disappointed due to my own hype. Still, it was well worth it and quite interesting. Come along with me as I recount the experience ...

The ride takes place in a small enclosed pod that seats four, each person with his own video screen immediately in front of him. Just before blast-off, the video shows us tilting up, and I believe our pod actually tilts back as well, even before the centrifuge starts. Then comes the rush, and I saw and felt rapid acceleration as we hurtled towards space. From what I've read, the spinning should not have been noticeable provided I kept my head straight ahead. Well I definitely kept my head still, but I could still feel the spinning. The odd sensation was mostly in my eyes. They were twitching left and right, not being fooled.

But soon I was in space and the engines shut off, and the feeling of weightlessness began. It was only an illusion, but a good one. I still had some normal gravity holding me in my seat. I think it was the contrast of what I had just experienced, combined with what I suspect is a slight tilt forward, that contributed to the illusion.

The ride continues with another acceleration burn hurtling us to Mars, then flying through a canyon landscape with the simulator providing all the appropriate g-forces. (Are there really canyons on Mars?) Anyway, we fail to land properly, and find ourselves balancing precariously on the edge of a Martian cliff, finally falling, recovering, and landing safely. Then ... all of a sudden ... the ride is over. Wait, it's over? How do we get back to Earth? (sigh)

I walked around Epcot for the next half hour with my brain, eyes, and ears still spinning slightly with that same odd sensation.

Later that night I saw a commercial on TV for this ride, with audio of a little girl saying, "Daddy, are we still in the building?" Beware of young minds being fooled.

Posted: Wed - January 28, 2004 at 10:42 PM