Spaceship Earth

EPCOT opened in October, 1982 and I went Christmas of that year. I was not quite seven years old and I don’t know if this was my first visit to Walt Disney World, but it is the first I remember. I was tiny and EPCOT was enormous, from the geodesic sphere that greets us to the circle of countries to explore. Since then I’ve been back many times, with family and friends, to celebrate holidays and graduations, and to introduce my children to its wonder.

Celebrating my most recent birthday at San Angel Inn Restaurante in EPCOT’s Mexico Pavillion.
(photo: Aurora deBoer)

I was raised by a college professor and a flower child. My mother was a true born peacenik environmentalist and my father taught theater at a small, stridently liberal university with which he sponsored artists from an island and culture on the other side of the world. Every holiday was shared with students and visiting faculty from other countries. We believed, lived, it’s a small world after all. From early childhood I was brought up to embrace globalism, to care about the future of all humanity, and to treat every interaction and activity as an opportunity to broaden my education. In short I was brought up as an EPCOT idealist and it is the favourite Disney park of myself, my brothers, and my daughters.

And the symbol of EPCOT is Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth under construction in 1981. (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pixie Trivia: Spaceship Earth

  • It took more than two years to build Spaceship Earth.
  • Spaceship Earth is made up of 11,324 isosceles triangles formed into points plus 954 partial or full flat triangular panels fit around its supports and doors.
  • Spaceship Earth’s geodesic sphere is actually two structural domes connected together.
  • No rain drips from the dome in inclement weather, instead the rain water is collected into gutters through one inch gaps and channelled into the nearby World Showcase Lagoon.
  • The ride through the dome uses an omnimover system with narration set to loop.
Aeris and Anika animated to appear to be surfing
Currently, the ride includes a photo element which uses facial recognition technology to create a short animated film based on survey answers provided by the riders (here, my daughter and myself). (photo: Kerste Milik)

The ride through the inside of the sphere has changed a few times over the years, with different sponsors, narrators, and music. But the basic theme of expanding communication across time, borders, languages, and cultures has remained throughout. New technology – from written word to printing, to radio and television, to the internet and now social media – allows us to gain access to foreign and emerging viewpoints and greater depth of understanding.

Closeup of Spaceship Earth’s panels (photo: Aurora deBoer)

To me EPCOT’s geodesic sphere represents the promise of the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow it welcomes us to. It shares Star Trek: The Next Generation’s brightly colored future and wide-eyed idealism, and conveys a comforting nostalgia while inviting optimism and encouraging a can-do attitude.

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.

Marshall McLuhan

In many ways, Disney World is a monument to capitalism, something I rail against daily. But it captures my imagination. The Magic Kingdom is a fairy tale, and EPCOT an idea of something better.

When the monorail arrives at EPCOT, it takes a spin around Spaceship Earth. (photo: MagicGuides.com)

Spaceship Earth represents hope.

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