Photo of Space Mountain covered in early morning fog. This was taken from a Water Taxi while on-route to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Florida.
Space Mountain is the name of a space-themed indoor roller coaster attraction located at all five Magic Kingdom-style Disney Parks. Although all five versions of the attraction are different in nature, all have a similar domed exterior façade that is a landmark for the respective park. The first Space Mountain ride opened in 1975 at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and similar attractions were then eventually built at the other Disney parks.
Space Mountain concept was a descendant of the first Disney “mountain” attraction, the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland, which opened in 1959. The Matterhorn’s success had convinced Walt Disney that thrilling rides did have a place in his park.
WED partnered with Arrow Development Company, the same company that had helped design the Matterhorn’s roller coaster systems years before. The initial concept was to have four separate tracks, but the technology available at the time, combined with the amount of space required versus that which was available within Disneyland, made such a design impossible. Walt Disney’s death in December 1966 and the new emphasis on preparing for the newly announced Disney World project forced WED to put aside the design of Space Mountain indefinitely. The Magic Kingdom’s early success, and its unexpected popularity with teens and young adults, prompted WED to begin planning thrill rides for the new park shortly after its opening in October 1971.
A new Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction was considered, but it wouldn’t fit within Florida’s Fantasyland. Ultimately, designers returned to designing Space Mountain. The Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland had the right amount of available land, and computing technology had improved significantly since the initial design phases. However, it was decided the mountain would be built outside the park, on the opposite side of the train tracks that act as the perimeter of the park. To help cover the cost of developing and building Space Mountain, Card Walker, the CEO of Walt Disney Productions, convinced RCA chairman Robert Sarnoff to sponsor the new attraction; RCA was contracted by Disney to provide the communications hardware for the Walt Disney World Resort, and their contract stated that if Disney presented an attraction of interest, RCA would provide USD$10 million to support it. Space Mountain then opened on January 15, 1975.