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Vintage Walt Disney World: Early Space Exploration

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

When the Space Shuttle Endeavor launched earlier this week, I began thinking how cool it must be to be strapped into the space shuttle as it hurdles itself into outer space. Of course, here at the Walt Disney World Resort you can have a similar experience over at Mission: SPACE at Epcot.

Original Star Jets at Magic Kingdom Park in July 1977

But the Magic Kingdom Park has offered guests the thrill of “space flight” since Nov. 28, 1974. Here is a photograph of the original Star Jets from Tomorrowland in July 1977. It is quite a stark comparison to what guests see today when they board the Astro Orbiter, which opened in 1994 and added a solar system to the Magic Kingdom Park skyline.

Astro Orbiter at Magic Kingdom Park

While I never had the opportunity to take a spin on the original Star Jets, I finally took flight on the Astro Orbiter, believe it or not, just three years ago. I’m not sure why it took me so long, but it sure is fun to fly high above Magic Kingdom Park.

Comments

  • I’m hoping that someone can answer this question. I was just at the Magic Kingdom (May 7-17), and going through the train station tunnel, with all the ride posters, was an AMAZING, new (but vintage looking) poster for Space Mountain. It was the coolest poster and noted the “starry-o-phonic” sound. My husband and I looked at every Art of Disney store on property, and could not find it. Any idea when it might be available, and how to get it? We have large ride posters framed throughout our home and would LOVE this one. Thanks for any info!

  • Last year our family went to Disneyland. There is a ride that is “vintage” (I think) that yes, made me scream! It is similar to the astro orbiter, but instead, it has silver cars that hang from chains. I don’t remember what it was called, yet, when it got going, I began to scream. You can imagine the ribbing I got from my teenage daughters! I mean, the cars flew out over the water. Yes, I am a chicken!

  • It is a tradition now every time i go to i go to Disneyland with my boyfriend we both squeeze into one of the Astro Orbiter jets (i am small) at night when all the cool light are on. We cant leave without riding it. It was one of the first places he kissed me in mid-flyte on our first date to the park.

  • Typically, rides like these don’t bother me… I have to say, though, that when we took our kids down to WDW last year and rode the AO, I was taken aback by how high up it was and how fast it went. Startled me a little bit. This year, I was better prepared for it… of course, I have 4 little dare devils who all thought that riding above the park at ridiculously high speeds with their parents holding onto them for dear life was wildly funny.

  • just got back from Disney today. i took one look at this ride and said to myself no freaking way

  • 1977 (September) was precisely the year of my first visit to Disney World (only Magic Kingdom then,IIRC).

    Michael: I agree, If you had Wings was a wonderful attraction!! I was really sorry to see it go… And yes, you didn’t need to spend tickets on it (remember the ticket kiosks?)

  • My sister and I have such a hilarious memory associated with the AO. Our first time on it, I couldn’t stop laughing so hard that I didn’t move the controls up and down. There we were zooming along at warp speed while everyone else lofted up and down, up and down. It still brings us to tears every time we think about it!

  • I remember the original…loved it! We would do everything in Tomorrowland and then hit the Sky Buckets over to Fantasy 🙂 I really wish they would bring those back!

  • Don’t recall riding the original Star Jets as a kid but one of our best Disney memories as parents was happening to ride Astro Orbiter with our son who was probably 4 or 5 just as the fireworks show was going on. We felt like we were in a commercial!

  • I’ve never ridden the Astro Orbiter but I have to say that Dumbo doesn’t make me smile either. For some reason however, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride doesn’t bother me at all? Go figure! Guess I’m just weird! We are going to Disney for Christmas and maybe this will be the year I give it a try??

  • Sure miss my favorite ride there “If you had wings by Eastern Airlines” And go figure at the time…it was FREE !!!!

  • Another terrified rider checking in! To be honest, Dumbo and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride don’t thrill me either! LOL

  • Every time I’m at The Magic Kingdom I say to myself I gotta get on the Astro Arbiter. I always run out of time and miss the chance to ride. I guess I’m a bad planner lol.

    Have a great day,
    Steamboat Eddie

  • Astro Orbiter and Turkey Legs, what a combo!!!

  • Kevin, I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one terrified by the Star Jets. I was “forced” to ride them once while I was a child in the ’70s. All I remember was being tilted sideways for what felt like an eternity. I truly felt like I was going to fall out. I haven’t gone on them again since. The PeopleMover is more my speed. 🙂

  • OK, I’ll admit it. Astro Orbiter and the original Star Jets are/were the scariest ride in all of Walt Disney World. As a kid, I was scared to death of the Star Jets. As an adult with my own kids, I am still scared of Astro Orbiter.

    I’m a roller coaster enthusiast so I’m not exactly shy when it comes to rides. Something about the Astro Orbiter though… makes my heart beat faster.

    I did “man up” and ride Astro Orbiter with my kids but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.

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