Mission to Mars was an interactive show in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. It also migrated over to Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

But first, Rocket to the Moon…

Before the Mission to Mars attraction was introduced, there were two other space-themed rides at Disneyland. The first was Flight to the Moon, which came before Rocket to the Moon. Rocket to the Moon opened just a few days after Disneyland's grand opening on July 17, 1955. At that time, Tomorrowland had only one ride, which was Autopia.

As guests entered the circular theatre, they noticed a round screen positioned in the middle of the floor. An additional screen was also placed directly above the circular screen on the ceiling. The top screen displayed the guests' destination, while the bottom screen showed the guests their previous location. Upon departure, the bottom screen showed the launch pad as it got smaller and smaller, then the same with Anaheim and Southern California, the United States, etc. Once the rocket reached the moon, the ship circled it once while a narrator explained some fun facts about the moon. On the way back, the bottom screen showed the moon getting smaller and smaller. The top screen showed the reverse of the departure scene–the world, the United States, California, all the way until reaching the launch pad at Disneyland.

Flight to the Moon

In 1967, the title of the movie "Rocket to the Moon" was changed to "Flight to the Moon". This happened during the time when the Apollo Program was in full swing. The Apollo Program was a NASA initiative that consisted of eleven space missions and eventually culminated in the historic moon landing. The name change coincided with the opening of New Tomorrowland and the renewed excitement for space travel. The iconic Moonliner rocket outside the attraction was removed in favour of a large sign above the entrance. This new exterior better displayed the sponsor McDonnell Douglas.

Once the moon landing was accomplished, Flight to the Moon felt outdated and less exciting. So, the attraction closed six years later.

Mission to Mars

Since landing on the moon was not as mysterious and exciting, Mars was the most logical next theme for the attraction. On March 21, 1975, Mission to Mars opened in place of Flight to the Moon. The new show was developed with the help of NASA to help make it feel more authentic.

Guests entered the Mission Control room for the pre-show. Inside Mission Control were control panels and animatronic control technicians. They kept their backs to guests, as they were obviously busy working. Guests could still see their arms and heads as they worked. Another animatronic was the Flight Director, Mr. Johnson, who gave guests a speech about how much progress humans have made in space travel. Mr. Johnson also explained how to handle the “effects of space.”

The updated experience also came with updated screens. There was still a screen on the floor and another on the ceiling. However, now there were several screens on the walls around the circular theatre as well. Also, this was no smooth, uneventful trip like last time. Guests never make it to Mars. Instead, a volcanic eruption damages the ship. The ship must hurry back to Earth. The seats would vibrate to simulate the movement of the ship.

The Mission to Mars attraction closed in Disneyland on November 2, 1992. It was originally supposed to be replaced by ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. However, that never happened. Disney World’s version closed on October 4, 1993, for the same reason. Although, the replacement thrill attraction was realized in Walt Disney World.