Mission: SPACE – What was I Thinking?

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By all appearances, Mission: SPACE looks like any other thrill ride in EPCOT. What most folks don’t know is that it is the most evil, diabolical ride Disney could ever make up.

It seemed harmless enough. Even inviting.

Thanks to the liquid courage we consumed at the Mexico pavilion, we ignored all the warnings. None of us was pregnant, we were at least this tall, we didn’t have known heart conditions, etc. We were on a mission to, well, SPACE.

They had Green (less intense) and Orange entrances. My wife and I did the Green ride a few years ago, and it was mild and pleasant. How much worse could the Orange ride be? The two colors are practically next to each other on the color wheel. So it seemed harmless enough. Fueled by one-margarita brain, we headed for Orange. We didn’t bother reading the precautions.

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The Orange ride operates on a combination of a centrifuge that spins the crew and a motion simulator that tilts the crew. So it not only spins but it tilts. A recipe for disaster. I didn’t know this. I don’t care for the Mad Tea Party ride because of the spinning. In my defense, the Green ride doesn’t spin.

Anyway, there we were. Four of us. Just the right number that was needed to fill out our crew. It was my older and equally favorite daughter, her husband, my younger and equally favorite daughter’s husband (my younger and equally favorite daughter was pregnant and was smart enough to read the signs) and myself. We were the quintessential crew for a daring space mission worthy of theatrical release. We had a crotchety old astronaut on his last mission, two up-and-coming engineers with agendas of their own, and a woman determined to make a name for herself and prove her gender more than capable in a male-dominated profession.

We climbed in, fastened our harnesses (“harness”…that should’ve been our first clue), they closed the hatch (after giving one more opportunity to escape), and we settled in for the pre-flight briefing by none other than Gary Sinise as our Capcom director.

We are all assigned roles and given responsibilities. Commander, pilot, navigator, engineer. Naturally, I was the commander.

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All that was left was the countdown and then blast off.

We were suddenly hit with the most intense feeling of internal pressure I’ve ever felt. It was a feeling so foreign that it is hard to describe. I was convinced that my lesser vital organs had liquified. It felt like someone had forced air into my sinuses. I thought my head would explode.

Remember those responsibilities we were all assigned? We had to push buttons at certain times to advance our ship. I struggled to move my arms to hit the buttons when my time came. My daughter was to my right. It came her turn to push a button. It was for a thruster or booster rocket or flux-capacitor or some such thing. When the signal was given…nothing. The signal was given again. Still nothing. I glanced over and she was frozen to her harness and wasn’t moving.

Summoning all intestinal fortitude to pry my hand from my own harness, I reached over and pushed the button for her. If that button didn’t get pushed when prompted we would’ve crashed. It would’ve been in all the papers.

My daughter later told me that she was too busy looking for an eject button that would launch her through an opening in the ceiling and then she would be gently parachuted down into the World Showcase Lagoon.

There was one bonus act of misery. We landed. Or did we? The ship started to shutter and before we knew it we were going over a cliff. But eventually, our ship did settle and we were greeted and congratulated by Director Lieutenant Dan.

After the ride had mercifully ended, we couldn’t get out fast enough. As we left, I glanced at the warning signage again and saw the “V” word. If I had seen that word while walking in I would’ve walked out. Vertigo. I’ve had diagnosed vertigo twice. The first time I didn’t understand what was happening and thought I was going to die. The second time was more than 11 years ago and to this day, because I’m so fearful of getting hit again, I have medication within easy reach wherever I go. If vertigo hit me on this ride, I would’ve been on the ground hugging the pavement because the rest of the world would be tilting like a scene from Inception.

I also would’ve most likely seen my lunch from the Mexico pavilion for a second time that day.

Vertigo is serious stuff. People may think they have it but they really don’t. If you’re one of those people who stands up too quickly, gets lightheaded and says, “oh I have vertigo,” we in the vertigo community just want to smack you. You don’t have vertigo.

This crotchety old astronaut has flown his last mission. And with his dignity intact. Barely.

So if you’re bound and determined to go on Mission: SPACE and do it via the Orange entrance, my only recommendation is to stop by the Mexico pavilion first. You’re gonna need it.

Dan Chapman loves everything Mouse - with a tattoo to prove it - and longs to step back into the Disney bubble any chance he gets. He has a particular admiration of Walt Disney the man, and reads every biography written about Walt Disney that he can get his hands on.

Dan is new to navigating the post-retirement landscape and stays busy putting kayak to water, bike to trail and pen to paper.

He and his wife live "beach-adjacent" in North Carolina (close enough to enjoy the beach but far enough to avoid the property taxes).


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