Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Moonliner

If you look in the Miscellaneous section of the Field Guide you will see a couple of Disney items. I'll talk about Mission to Mars, I mean, Mission Space later. Today I want to express my infatuation with the Moonliner. This iconic spaceship, bridging the public meme from the V-2s of WWII to the boosters that would take us to the moon, was the centerpiece for Disneyland's original Tomorrowland, giving park visitors a glimpse of the future of 1985. Anchoring the 'Rocket to the Moon' attraction, at 79' foot tall (one foot taller would require red warning lights on the nose) it was just a wee short of the Mercury-Redstone that would 6 years later launch America's first astronauts. Sponsored by Howard Hughes' TWA, it was a staple in advertisements of the airlines modern fleet of aircraft. The attraction itself offered guests a chance to circumnavigate the moon, 'feeling' the forces of flight from increased g at liftoff to reduced gravity of orbit.

The Moonliner displayed was itself a model, as the actual vehicle was said to reach 240 feet, taller than the Saturn 1B. It was powered by an atomic engine, and provided single stage to lunar orbit capabilities. Its three massive legs, whose curves are said to be reminiscent of TWA's Constellation aircraft, would retract for flight and extend back for a pin-point landing.

The original Moonliner was removed in 1966 to make way for the 'New' Tomorrowland. IN 1998 it returned, although at 52 feet only 2/3rds the height of the original. TWA is no longer with us, so this Moonliner is sponsored by Coca-Cola, and rises above a soft drink kiosk. Although there is no longer an attraction to go with it, every visitor knows what is is. A rocket, THE rocket, that has inspired many to imagine trips beyond the atmosphere.

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