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Space Shuttle Discovery Soars Over Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World

Thomas Smith

by , Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Space Shuttle Discovery Soars Over Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World
If you’re heading to Walt Disney World today, you’ll see some amazing things — but nothing like this. This morning, photographer Kent Phillips captured Space Shuttle Discovery as it soared over Cinderella Castle on its mission to the space station. After the shuttle’s climb to orbit, Kent also photographed Discovery’s exhaust trail catching the first rays of sunlight.
Space Shuttle Discovery Soars Over Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World

Kent said he snapped the images near Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland and that seeing the liftoff and amazing light show were definitely worth getting up early for.


  • Gorgeous!!

  • I also noticed the smoke ring that looked like an “8” in the sky after the launch. Great photo thanks for posting it.

  • This is absolutely outstanding. Thank you for sharing. The exhaust trail reminds me of the Caterpillar’s smoke rings in Alice in Wonderland… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Absolutely amazing pic.

  • I think this picture might need to become my wallpaper for a while. Amazing.

    • Yes…certainly wallpaper-worthy. Thanks, Craig.

  • AWESOME!!!!!

  • As always, amazing photos!

  • Great photo! One of the coolest memories I have from working at Walt Disney World, 1988-1990, was during the Backstage Studio Tour at what was then the Disney-MGM Studios. I was giving the tour when I saw the space shuttle (don’t recall which one) launch and I was able to point it out to my tour group.

  • Absolutely my favorite picture of the castle ever! I would love a horizontal version to use as a desktop wallpaper. Normally bringing the outside world into WDW distracts from the magic, but this one does just the opposite!

  • Very cool indeed. Was wondering from what area he took those photos and know exactly where he was set up.

    Another perfect Orlando morning at the park ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oh Wow! That is amazing! Wish I could’ve witnessed it!

  • Sure wish I still lived in Florida. Loved seeing the shuttle launches as a kid. This picture of it soaring over the Castle is one in a million! Great job, Kent!

  • Is that a Hidden Mickey right above the bottom picture? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Awesome site

  • Splendiferous and coooool!
    Thanks you Kent

  • Amazing!!!

  • My husband and I saw a launch in October 2000 while we were waiting for Fantasmic to start. It was so cool. We snapped a couple of pics, but nothing as good as this.

  • That is so Beautiful!

  • Those are amazing photos. I wish I got to see that, Its going to be sad to see the shuttle program shut down.

  • Absolutely stunning.


  • Almost looks like Mickey all the way on the right!

  • Hey, Tinker Bell, is that you? ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, a magical photo. I missed a shuttle launch due to a delay by 2 days last November – was already cruising on the Magic. Would have loved to witness that.

  • Amazing and wonderful!

  • What beautiful photos and like Craig from MA…one of them will be my new wallpaper….kudos to you!!

  • Breath taking. What wonderful photography.

  • Beautiful….really makes me want to come to Florida even sooner. love Cinderella’s castle

  • Amazing picture ! In all the trips we have done was only in Florida for 1 shuttle launch and was backed up on the 528 so only saw from a distance anyway.

  • So amazingly beautiful. Thank you for waking up so early to capture this for all of us to enjoy!

  • That’s wicked cool!

  • those rings almost formed a classic hidden Mickey ! ( I took a great pic at Downtown Disney of a real cloud formation shaped like a Giant Classic Mickey)

  • awesome pics it was 6:30 this morning and i thought it was re-entry for some reason since i didn’t have my glasses on it was a blur lol

  • These are beautiful pictures, thanks for posting them!

  • Awsome shot!

  • Any chance you might release higher resolution versions of these two images?

    A few years ago I managed to get a great shot of the shuttle taking off over Spaceship Earth at sunset. Very similar. Always love those chance circumstances.

  • hidden mickeys in the skyy

  • Thank you for sharing this magical image, Thomas.

  • Wow that is beautiful and just amazing.

  • WOW! Beautiful!

  • Thank you forgetting up to take the AWESOME pictures of the shuttle launch. Much better than what I saw from my winter home.

  • Great Timing Kent….. What a sight, nice pictures.

  • I am soo envious of you, two of the three things I want to do this year and you captured them both in one sitting. Fantastic pictures and hope to see more of them from today, keep posting.

  • The smoke(?) in the second picture looks like Donald Duck! There’s the main white circle (his head) with a big orange triangle jutting out from the left side (his bill) and a big blue splotch on the top-left of the circle (his hat)! There’s even a big whole in the white circle right where the eye should be!

  • Beautiful pics! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Just beautiful! What an awesome sight that must have been….seeing the space shuttle above Cinderella’s castle, at the happiest place on earth ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Rockin’ Pic!

  • The sky looked so cool. And hey that’s the same view from my backyard except for the whole castle part.

  • Last year my family and I watched a launch from Port Orleans Riverside. It was so cool that it brought tears to my eyes. If I had seen it go over the castle, oh my gosh, I probably would have been bawling my eyes out. What beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing them (sniff, sniff).

  • Absolutely awesome pictures! I wish I could have been there to see it in person, but thanks for sharing it with all of us!

  • Great picture for those who knew Chase I would like to think he can see it from heaven

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