While looking through my Disney pictures for inspiration on which ride or piece of scenery to write about next I noticed that I had taken about 89 pictures of Spaceship Earth while we were in Epcot. I decided that their might be a reason so I set out to learn more. After all, the largest geodesic sphere in the world is something of a marvel. It photographs well from all over the park and it is quite the landmark. It captures the eye and the imagination and draws you to it. It’s stunning, really. From Epoct’s opening in 1982, Spaceship Earth has entranced park goers, but what’s really going on inside this ball of goodies? Let’s take a look.
The sphere itself stands 180 feet high, is 165 feet in diameter and has no less than 954 triangular panels made out of anodized aluminum that has been bonded on each side with a core of polyethylene at its center. This is called alucobond. It appears to be hovering in the air thanks to 6 steel legs. It is actually held an impressive 15 feet above ground.
Go a bit deeper and you’ll find that the whole thing is actually two separate spheres. One on the outside, one on the inside. The inner sphere is weatherproof to protect the ride and is composed of steel arranged in a giant triangle. It is also the piece that houses the spiral route of the ride itself. The outer sphere is just for show and is held two feet away from the inner sphere. Interestingly though, halfway up the sphere is a gutter system. It collects water and takes it down the sphere, through the supporting legs and underground until it eventually replenishes the World Showcase Lagoon! Oh science. You’re the best. This is doubly important as, if not for this system, water would pour down on guests every time it rained. Thank you Spaceship Earth for keeping my head dry. You’re the best.
There’s an urban myth that the surface of Spaceship Earth is so reflective that when the sun hits it just right, it sets grass around it on fire. Folks also say that if those rays hit you they can severely burn your skin. Sorry conspiracy theorists, this one just ain’t true. The material was chosen, however, because during the day it would reflect the guests below, while at night, it reflected the stars above.
The original story for Spaceship Earth was drafted by the formidable Ray Bradbury. From here, 17 scenes outlining the life and times of communication were put together and research began to find out how to make each scene feel super authentic. In less than a week after opening, upwards of 100,000 guests had ridden Spaceship Earth and within the first year, it hit a whopping 7.5 million.
Something else fun to know is that many of the animatronics are copies, re-clothed and repurposed in order to save money. Many of these included presidents from the Hall of Presidents. Notice something familiar about the Roman Senator. That’s your buddy Teddy Roosevelt! Hmm, where have I seen that monk before? Oh right, it’s John Adams. Many animatronics from both Hall of Presidents and the American Adventure were copied to save on costs for Spaceship Earth.
There’s so much to know about Spaceship Earth. From the authenticity in the sights and sounds to the little tiny details but I’ll save some of that for you to discover on your own. It’s a wonder and a modern marvel. It fascinates from the outside as much as it does on the inside. Next time you pass it by, make sure to give a friendly wave. It represents progress and growth and inspiration and does all of that while keeping you dry from the rain. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.