Today in Disney History, 1975: Mission to Mars Opened at the Magic Kingdom

by | Jun 7, 2021 | Disney History, Magic Kingdom, WDW Blog

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Mission to Mars opened at the Magic Kingdom on June 7, 1975

Houston, we have a problem super-cool vintage attraction. Mission to Mars opened in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom back in 1975. 

Though it closed in 1993, the out-of-this-world adventures at this location haven’t stopped. Aliens invaded this spot via two other attractions in the time since. Do you know which two they were?

Walt Disney World’s First Space Travel

A view of "mission control" at Mission to Mars

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

When we think of space travel today at Disney World, Mission: SPACE in EPCOT is probably the attraction that first comes to mind. 

Mission: SPACE (which we are covering in our July 2021 issue) may bring a deeper level of immersion to the space theme, but Mission to Mars did it first, using vivid storytelling to bring guests into the world of space travel. 

The attraction that became Mission to Mars in Magic Kingdom began as Flight to the Moon in Disneyland. 

The original attraction presented guests with a similar concept of space travel with the obvious focus on traveling to the moon instead of to Mars. 

Authentic Space Travel

A view of "mission control" at Mission to Mars

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Like its modern cousin, Mission: SPACE, Mission to Mars was created with consultation by NASA to ensure that the details included in the experience would provide guests with enough immersion to feel as though they were participating in navigating to Mars themselves.

During Mission to Mars, guests experienced their flight through “hyper-space-warp,” a sensation that perfectly aligns with the fantastically futuristic vision of Tomorrowland in the 70s. 

The warp, which primarily took place during takeoff and landing (and a quick incident where the ship became damaged and a speedy return to Earth was necessary), would happen with everyone seated in a circular chamber. 

From the ride’s chamber, vibrations and slight jolts from guests’ seats along with bursts of compressed air timed perfectly with the film footage worked to give off the sensation of movement. 

It’s a far cry from Mission: SPACE which gives off more g-forces than many roller coasters, but it was thrilling in terms of Magic Kingdom attractions just a couple of years after the park opened!

The entire ride experience aboard Mission to Mars was 18 minutes long, giving guests time to board their cabin and navigate safely to the red planet. 

If the experience was not thrilling enough for guests (though Mission to Mars was reasonably popular during its peak), they could always head over to Space Mountain, which opened in January of 1975.

Connections to Mission: SPACE

Mission: SPACE outside

Photo by Cliff Wang

The connections between Mission to Mars and Mission: SPACE are obvious with the similar storytelling and time-specific takes on space-like g-forces, but the Easter eggs even continue right through to the actors used in the preshows. 

Gary Sinise, for instance, played almost the same exact character in both attractions. (Later replaced by Gina Torress at Mission: Space.) 

Mission: SPACE features footage from the preshows of Mission to Mars and Flight to the Moon. 

It’s a little quick and easy to miss if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, but the short look at the bird landing is footage that was originally seen in the classic Tomorrowland preshow. 

ExtraTERRORestrial Life?

Wondering about those aliens? 

Mission: SPACE has no connection to aliens, but the Magic Kingdom attraction was eventually taken over by life from another planet.

When Mission to Mars closed in 1993, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter replaced it. 

The g-force stimulation was removed (and the theme of the attraction was changed), but the new attraction proved to be just as, if not more, thrilling.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter held guests in a holding chamber as a dangerous alien broke out and wreaked havoc on the theater, all the while guests were physically restrained, forcing them to stay put in their seats.

The attraction took place mainly in the dark and used various effects to make guests believe that they were genuinely being taunted by something from outside of this world. 

Partially because of the thrilling nature of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, the attraction that came next would focus less on thrills and more on comedy. 

Stitch’s Great Escape

The interior theater of Mission to Mars at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Stitch’s Great Escape followed a similar concept where guests witness an alien escape, only this time the alien turned out to be Experiment 626, and he’d be less frightening and more playful as he interacted with guests. 

After running on a seasonal operating status for about a year, Stitch’s Great Escape will not be reopening at the Magic Kingdom. 

For a time after closing, the preshow area of Stitch’s Great Escape served as a Stitch character greeting location.

Disney has not made any announcements for what might be coming next in the Mission to Mars show building, but if you ask us, we’d love to see something with a tribute to one of the original Tomorrowland attractions!


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Written by Brittany DiCologero

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Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
Brittany DiCologero

Written by Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
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