The First Man on Mars was Walt Disney. As the news is full of stories reporting on people who are lining up for a one way trip to Mars, Walt Disney has been taking people on a journey to Mars and back, for years now.

 This past week, a non-profit Dutch organization spearheading an effort to colonize Mars whittled down its list of candidate settlers to 100 men and women interested in permanent relocation a decade from now. Reported on, the contenders, who range in age from 19 to 60, were selected from a pool of 660 semi-finalists from all over the world. During the next round of screening, the candidates will demonstrate their ability to work in teams, with an eye toward landing one of 24 final training spots. Mars One’s goal is to launch the first four-member crew to Mars in 2024.

“Being one of the best individual candidates does not automatically make you the greatest team player, so I look forward to seeing how the candidates progress and work together in the upcoming challenges,” Mars One medical officer Norbert Kraft said in a statement.

Mars One estimates it will cost about $6 billion for the first flight and about $4 billion for each of those slated to follow every two years. The goal is to establish an initial self-sustaining colony of 24 transplanted Earthlings.

It is amazing to see how many people are interested in taking this one-way trip into space and the pages of history. However, it is also just as interesting to me as I read the accounts and reports of this ambitious project that the first man on Mars was actually Walt Disney.

Well, sort of.
Long before people were lining up to take a one way trip to Mars… people from all walks of life were doing it every single day at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. June 7, 1975 people started taking this trip, when Mission to Mars opened as an attraction replacing Flight to the Moon. The moon flight was rather boring to folks, since man had already been on the surface of the moon four times by the time the attraction opened. Less than four years later, it had been closed, revamped, and people were headed on their own mission to Mars.

The voyage began as a hostess directed guests into the Mission Control Center.  The lead tech, Mr. Johnson began getting passengers ready for this new mission. The preflight briefing included information about zero-gravity manufacturing and the production of crystals in
space. And just like in the Flight to the Moon briefing, an alarm sounded during the presentation and all monitors switched to see the same footage of an albatross landing at the space facility. Mr. Johnson says, “Oh no, not again! Just as I thought. Somehow this silly bird trips the emergency system every time he comes in. And I think he knows the laugh’s on us.”

It was funny and of course, pulled off with the usual Disney flair and style. After the laughter died down, Mr. Johnson showed the waiting passengers actual NASA footage taken from aboard Skylab and pictures of Mars taken by Mariner 9. Mixed with a bit of Disney magic and an intriguing Disney storyline, the backdrop for the attraction experience had been created. With the five minute preshow completed, the hostess escorted everyone into one of the two theaters that would simulate Space Flight 295 aboard a DC-88 Space Liner.

The countdown was on and in moments, guests were blasting off toward Mars. The lower screen showed the rocket’s flames and on the upper screen a blue sky give way to a starry field. The seat still sank to simulate G-forces. A very subtle but nice effect in the day. Our tour guide, Third Officer Collins, informed travelers that they would be using a new method of space travel called a hyperspace-jump. This would allow us to travel vast distances in just a few seconds. During the hyperspace-jump, a psychedelic light display was projected on the upper and lower screens while the words “Hyperspace Penetration” blinked on the wall-mounted monitors. All the while, sci-fi sound
effects were loudly pumped into the cabin. This was Disney’s version of a wormhole.

 As the hyperspace-jump came to an end, travelers could now see Mars looming nearby on the upper screen. The ship dispatched several camera rocket drones. The premise was that these drones would give the space travelers a close-up view of the red planet while maintaining a safer distance above.

While exploring Olympus Mans, a huge volcano on the Martian surface, the ship is hit by a shower of meteoritic particles. An emergency alarm blared and the craft entered another hyperspace-jump for a quick trip back to Earth. Now out of danger, Third Officer Collins informed, “Everything’s all right now, but ah, that was a close call. Actually the chances are a million to one against meeting another
emergency like that, so please fly with us another time. There’s a lot more to see on Mars. Now, please stand by for touchdown.”

Mission to Mars welcomed the last passengers at the Magic Kingdom on October 4, 1993.

Today, if you venture over to Epcot, guests can still travel to Mars. This time the attraction is called Mission:Space and it takes theme park attraction design to a brand new level of story-telling.

The desire to go to Mars and explore is nothing new. People have been dreaming about for years.
Many young dreamers discovered that Walt Disney and his creative team were inspiring them to chase their dreams when most were barely aware of the possibilities. Through the years, the Imagineers have continued this tradition of stretching the limits and exploring the boundaries of our imagination through creative storytelling.

 In so many ways, Walt Disney… then and now… continues to inspire the  dreamer and adventurer in each of us.







Jeff Dixon is the author of the Dixon On Disney series of Kingdom books. Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, and Storming
the Kingdom
are adventure thrillers set inside the worlds and history of Walt Disney. A native of Central Florida, Jeff has been a cast member at Walt Disney World when there was only a Magic Kingdom. He is a life-long fan, an annual passholder, an avid collector of Disney stories and history… and a story-teller who inspires and connects real life to the stories of yesterday, today, and the promise of tomorrow.