LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Jan. 9, 2004) -- As NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit beams back image after astonishing image from Gusev crater this week, earthlings experiencing Mission: SPACE at Walt Disney World Resort are enjoying their own "Mars Madness."
Launched last fall and based on actual NASA astronaut training techniques, Mission: SPACE rockets Epcot guests on an unforgettable journey to Mars, from thunderous liftoff to touchdown on the Red Planet so prominent in the news this week.
To celebrate Spirit's success, elated Epcot guests, Disney cast members and Mickey Mouse and Goofy will sign a giant congratulatory postcard on Friday outside the attraction, to be mailed to NASA. The postcard will be available for guest signatures all morning.
Crowds have been eager and nonstop since Mission: SPACE, presented by HP, opened its doors.
"I'm a space nut anyway," said Epcot guest John Duncan, of Foster City, Calif., fresh from his own martian landing on Mission: SPACE Tuesday. "The technology of this attraction gives you a feel for what's really going on."
"The Rover is real and this was fantasy," said a delighted Randy Kemberling, of Denver at the attraction's post-show area brimming with hands-on activities.
The real Mars expedition is stirring the sense of adventure in some. "Yeah, it made me curious [to try the Mission: SPACE attraction]," said Amy Taylor of Windsor, Ontario.
Andrew Kemberling concurred: "Because of the success this week on Mars, I wanted to experience Mission: SPACE and what they've done with technology," said the Denver resident and brother of Randy Kemberling. "You feel a part of it -- it brings some reality to what's going on in space."
What Epcot guests see through the portholes of their space capsule are computer-generated images from spacecraft that have gone before Spirit -- including Mars Odyssey and Global Surveyor. It brings a space-scape millions of miles away to their fingertips.
For those with boundless curiosity about Mars and the planets, Mission: SPACE becomes the "next best thing to being there" until the time everyday interplanetary travel becomes a reality.