Easily the most successful indoor roller coaster at Disneyland, Space Mountain has the distinction of being not only a thrill ride, but an immersive space-simulation experience. Guests are walked through a simulated rocket port, loaded into small "rockets" and sent on a wild journey through simulated darkness.
Because it is difficult to see in the ride, guests often have difficulty judging how fast Space Mountain vehicles move. Many guests estimate speeds of up to sixty miles an hour, although in reality vehicles never go faster than eight mph.
In 1996, Imagineers improved on the Space Mountain ride experience by installing a sound system in each ride vehicle. During the ride, music was broadcast directly into guests' heads through contact speakers on the backs of the seats to stunning effect. The music that accompanied the ride was originally a lovingly orchestrated version of "Fly Me to the Moon," but through the aegis of somebody with no sense of style it was soon replaced by a more "modern" custom-made hodgepodge of noise that would make your grandmother weep if she knew you were listening to it.
Update: July 2005
In July 2005, Space Mountain was reopened after being closed for rehab for six years. The extensive work was necessary for two reasons. First, some riders found the ride to be a little rough. And second, there were numerous complaints that the darkness within the ride just wasn't dark enough.
It was decided that the entire Space Mountain ride track had to be removed and carefully, meticulously rebuilt by hand. Imagineers originally planned to remove the building's roof and use massive cranes to lift the old track out and put a new track in (a process that would have taken the better part of a month). But it was quickly apparent that this plan would unacceptably ruin Tomorrowland's skyline. So instead of cutting off the top of the building, Imagineers moved all construction materials in and out of the attraction through an existing exit in the back of the building. Unfortunately, this was an emergency exit and an alarm sounded every time the door was opened, causing confusion and, on many occasions, leading to the accidental summoning local fire and rescue personnel. Compounded with the fact that all track pieces had to be cut down to a size that would fit through a standard door, this caused several years to be added to the rehab time.
To make the situation even more tragic, it was found that the original reasons for closing the attraction -- not enough darkness and a rough ride -- were due a light being left on and someone spilling a jar of Tang crystals on the track.
Fortunately, Imagineers made the whole painful process worth it by "plussing" the ride while it was being rebuilt. The new Space Mountain has new special effects (including dozens of new twinkly lights), an "exciting" new soundtrack, and a full loop so smooth and in such pitch darkness that you'll never know you experienced it. Also, Disneyland has a new policy that 50% of all Space Mountain employees must be actual astronauts.
To make the ride even more reridable, Space Mountain is now able to change music and special effects programs at the flip of a switch. Using this new technology, Space Mountain can now become Rockit Mountain, complete with shocking Nine Inch Nails music and blinding lights on launch, for Grad Night festivities. To please parents and eliminate necking teenagers, the ride can become Spouse Mountain in the evenings, for a calmer experience available only to married couples. The occasional Spice Girls-themed switch to Spice Mountain was canceled when it was discovered that nobody knows who the Spice Girls were anymore. And in any case, management just can't be bothered to go to all the trouble of flipping switches back and forth, so the ride is pretty much stuck in its default mode for the time being.
Trivia: If the show building was completely filled with water, guests riding Space Mountain would likely drown.
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