New moon-shaped casino announced for Vegas, but for space-themed fun, Disney is a better bet
As billionaires try to fight each other by shooting each other into space, there is a lot of movement in space tourism for us, the plebs who don’t have our own rocket companies to promote. From Disney to Vegas, space seems to be the hottest new theme in tourism.
We are still years, if not decades, from affordable and accessible off-Earth tourism, but in the meantime there is a wave of new space-themed tourism experiences.
The most prominent projects are both at Walt Disney World. After unprecedented delays, the Space 220 restaurant opened last week at the EPCOT. Themed on a fixed space station 220 miles above Orlando, the themed dining experience is akin to California Grill or Coral Reef, but with large, hyper-real projections of Earth. The new restaurant is also one of the most realistic aspects of how a space elevator works to date. Like its forerunner, The Living Seas hydrators, the Stellarvator, as the Space Elevator is known, has obvious issues that prevent it from being too authentic.
The same goes for the upcoming Stars Wars: Galactic Starcruiser which is set to debut next year. Using similar hyperreal simulated windows, the Starcruiser will offer customers the experience of a cruise ship in space. This idea isn’t new, but with cutting-edge technology and a commitment to thematic consistency throughout the three-day, two-night “cruise”, the Starcruiser will be the closest thing to a space vacation for many. Disney is also planning a Star Wars-themed bar on its upcoming cruise ship that will offer a similar window to space.
It’s not Florida’s first space attraction. From the earliest days of launches at Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center has helped connect with the US space program. In the nearby town of Titusville, a Mars-themed science complex has been proposed. The project, known as INTERSPACE Florida, was a mix between a research center, a multi-day complex and a science museum. Initially launched in 2008, INTERSPACE was delayed until 2014 due to the Great Recession. Although it is over ten years old, the project has many of the same characteristics as the projects under development. A round of fundraising raised over $ 15 million for the project, but it was never achieved. Project co-founder Joseph Palaia confirmed to Orlando Weekly that the project was canceled due to lack of funding. “Unfortunately, at the time, we couldn’t make the necessary investment, and my co-founder and I moved on with our lives. Indeed, it was an idea that was out of date.”
But by far the most ambitious simulated space tourism project is a new resort announced for Las Vegas. Using a construction technique almost identical to that of Space Mountain, the new casino complex will have a central tower that supports a huge moon-shaped building 735 feet tall, the largest replica of the Moon ever attempted. Inside, guests will have hotel rooms with views of the lunar surface, and there will be spacious space for guests to explore the simulated lunar surface.
Some believe that the high-profile resort of Moon, which is expected to cost $ 5 billion, will take the same route as Project Titusville. Scott Roeben of Vegas news site Vital Vegas is one of those skeptics. He sees the recent trend in space-themed tourist attractions as a connection to recent launches and unusual themes. “I think exaggerated ads are always fun to tell, and this story is on the moon in terms of the ridiculous. Beyond the extravagant element, space is a thing right now. Every billionaire goes into space, so it’s trendy, although this particular project is complete science fiction.
Roeben acknowledges that Vegas has always had a unique fascination with space, including previous proposals for a moon-themed resort aptly named “Moon World”. This specific project seemed unlikely to him due to the location, costs and design concept. “The proposed site appears to be on land owned by Wynn Resorts, and I can guarantee there is no prize where they would let what is arguably a sticky monstrosity be built on this site. I know, buzzkill. He admits that Moon’s bars would be interesting but quickly adds: “Unfortunately, this project has no hope of existing. It is pure fantasy. A second Moon complex is proposed for Dubai.
In 2016, a concept similar to the doomed titusville one was proposed for Vegas. He would have simulated Mars inside a massive dome, almost as high as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Surrounding the simulated area would be a large retail and entertainment complex. This project now appears to be stuck as well. This is no surprise to Roeben, as he notes, “Vegas is big dreams, and the vast majority are blowjob type.”
Tourists have long been fascinated by space. One of Coney Island’s most successful early attractions was a simulated ride to the moon. This attraction made its debut at the 1901 Pan American Exposition, where guests paid double the price of other attractions. The high cost did not deter guests, as this is one of the most popular exhibits at the show.
A similar attraction opened at Disneyland in 1955, where it also saw large crowds. Epcot’s Mission: Space, adding the thrill of the G-forces to a space attraction, opened at Epcot in 2003. In a post-ride area, guests can explore Mars via a computer simulation.
There is also a push towards true space tourism. In Las Vegas, there are plans for a spaceport just outside the city, although Roeben believes this to be another pipe dream, largely due to the city’s lack of skilled workers. Back in Florida, Brevard County is trying to maintain its space supremacy, with a proposal to change the county’s name to Space Coast in an effort to better market the region. Many companies have now set a goal of hosting regular space tourism trips by the end of the decade, with many projects being launched from Brevard County.
Earlier this year, Virgin Galactic made the news by picking up one of Disney’s most recognizable Imagineers, Joe Rohde. In his new role, Rohde is responsible for ensuring a seamless experience for tourists visiting space from Virgin Galatic’s custom-built hyper-luxurious spaceport in New Mexico.
In the 1980s, when EPCOT was new, it was the first introduction for many guests to the global cultures celebrated within it. Since then, access to these distant nations has become much easier for many. Likewise, Space 220 will be the first “taste” of space that many guests will encounter. But, with dozens of other space-themed attractions and authentic space tourism propositions, in a few decades the restaurant may seem as outdated as the land formerly known as Future World.
For now, the space is reserved for the smartest and the richest. Maybe someday that won’t be the case, but in the meantime, there are still fantasies of Disney and Vegas.
Stay on top of Central Florida news and opinions with our weekly newsletters and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but powerful team works tirelessly to bring you news from Central Florida, and every little bit counts.