Mission: Shuttle Launch   Leave a comment

A Comparison of Kennedy Space Center’s “Shuttle Launch Experience” and Epcot’s “Mission:SPACE” Attractions

AND: a Brief Update on the Construction Taking Place at Kennedy Space Center

I’m sure I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again: The Shuttle Launch Experience at Kennedy Space Center is better than Mission Space. But why?

1) The Shuttle Launch Experience is far more accessible to people than Mission Space.

People go into the Launch Experience and don’t worry about their hearts exploding. Mission Space has an unfortunate history and bad rep. Many people are scared of it just because of the copious amount of warning signs. The extent of the Launch Experience’s signage is your standard “you must be in good health..” sign, and a few blueprint-like images of the sim at a ninety degree angle. The ride itself isn’t the same intensity as Mission Space, either. But that isn’t to say it’s not intense. Even with the comfy seats, the shaking can be quite a beating to those not prepared. Of course, some people have gotten off and said “It’s like a really good massage!” Contrarily, I’ve heard people get off Mission Space saying they felt ill. Mission Space has quite a bit of punch, since you’re experiencing the real G-forces.

Although both rides are intense, and many opt-out of both, I think people are more willing to ride the Shuttle Launch Experience. Mission Space’s bad rep and harsh thrills render many too afraid to ride. Meanwhile, the far less intimidating sounding “Get Vertical” peaks the interests of even non-thrill seekers.

2) The Shuttle Launch Experience is better edutainment.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure what Mission Space is meant to teach you. Space travel? Mars? Training?
In some ways, Mission Space’s experience was built around the way the simulator looks. I don’t think WDI was happy with the guests’ ability to see the simulator pods, and thus decided to have the guests act as trainees. A smart move, yes. Even the Shuttle Launch Experience calls the flight a simulation. And so, Mission Space themes the entire attraction around this ‘flight training’ idea, including the educational parts. Unfortunately, the real educational parts are in the pre-show, and very brief. And sadly, it’s a rather limited point of discussion, so much so that the post-show focuses on what it’s like to be in mission control (though yes, it does have a minimal training theme).

The Shuttle Launch Experience does away with information on how astronauts train. In it’s place, it teaches you about how the Space Shuttles were powered, what each of the giant rocket things and orange tower were there for, how the ships escaped the Earth’s pull without crushing, and how powerful the ships were. Sound boring? Well, between the amazing lighting and smoke effects, and nifty mobile screens it’s really cool looking. On top of that, former astronaut and current NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. hosts the attraction, delivering a fantastic and humorous script the whole way through. Compare that to Gary Sinise and the ‘meh’ script of Mission Space. I learned more from the Shuttle Launch Experience than I did with Mission Space.

3)The Shuttle Launch Experience is different…in a better way.

Though both attractions are, more or less, one-of-a-kind experiences, I think the Launch Experience’s is much more unique. Mission Space, though a centrifuge, is a simulator for most of the attraction. Launch Experience is vertical the entire time.
The Shuttle Launch Experience may not take you to Mars (or anywhere, really) like Mission Space, but it’s conclusion is far more impressive. I’d take the Earth orbiting above me in space over the overused ‘Don’t move! We’re going to fall!” bit. It’s much more awe-inspiring, grand and, in a word, big.

Of course, Mission Space certainly has it’s advantages over the Shuttle Launch Experience.

Mission Space is an interactive experience. You’re sitting in the cockpit, pressing buttons, and moving the joystick (I lied about the joystick part). It’s first-person and individualized.
Perhaps Mission Space’s greatest advantage is that Mission Space is s fully fleshed out environment. As I said before, it appears that Mission Space’s story was built around the pods. And it works so very well in that regard. When Disney has an idea for a theme, it can’t go wrong ( at least 95% of the time). When entering Shuttle Launch, the queue gives you no hints as to what the attraction is. You just kind of know what it is after reading all those signs. The pre-show is, as I said, an info drop. It does mention this is a simulation, but that’s it. During the ride itself, Bolden continues to explain what is occurring (though you cannot hear a thing over the shaking, so it’s somewhat pointless). Beyond that, there is no real storyline. You’re just there to ride.

Shuttle Launch is very sterile and industrial. Plenty of bare walls and scaffolding. The old exterior queue was almost intolerably ugly (Of course, the entire Space Center is built this way. Whether it’s to make it look like the launch towers and such or to save money is up to you to decide). Mission Space wins out for it’s exterior….for now.

As great as Mission Space looks from the outside, it’s no Journey into Space pavilion. And it certainly isn’t anywhere near being the new Atlantis Space Shuttle complex! Once complete next year, this building will be transformed into a modern, sleek, and rather large building. Not only will it house the retired ship (which will be moved into the building this November!), it will cover up the ugly facade the Launch Experience originally had.

As great as this new structure will be, it’s construction has taken a serious toll on the Launch Experience. Instead of entering through the main entrance (which is now a construction zone), guests enter through the emergency exits and crew member corridors, and queue in what was the boarding area of the now unused Simulator 1. This leaves only 2 sims avalible for use (and only one was running while we where there. As we exited the ride, it had closed. Assumingly, both sims went down), and an awkward entrance/exit.

Here’s a construction picture! The large gap will be where the main entrance will go. Scale replicas of the Solid Rocket Boosters and Fuel Tank will stand erect before it.

This isn’t the only area of the Visitor Complex benefiting from the new Atlantis structure. There’s construction going on everywhere at the Visitor Complex! A large area in front of the ticket booths, previously unused, has some new structures under construction (hopefully a new, larger entrance). The showbuilding previously housing an exhibit on the wildlife living on the grounds seems to be undergoing some modifications, with walls stretching all across the boarder of it and Rocket Tower Garden around to the front of the Complex.

If there’s one thing I really hope they could do during this very nice face-lift, it would be to paint the Saturn V model in Rocket Tower Garden. It’s rusting beyond belief.

Anywho, that’s that. Hope you’ve enjoyed this post, even though it isn’t exactly all about Disney. But I really enjoy Kennedy Space Center, and I think more people need to get on out and see it. It’s out of this world. A blast. Stellar.

***Remember you can follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.***

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Posted August 13, 2012 by Imagineer2017 in Attractions, Opinions

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