Image above: From left, Walt Disney World President Al Weiss, 10-year-old Sofi Collis, and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe admire a model rover, with the now-famous quote as a backdrop. (+ View Larger Image). Photo credit: Gene Duncan/Disney.
Disney Salutes NASA with Mars Quote
When NASA's Spirit rover landed on the red planet on Jan. 3, 2004, Administrator Sean O'Keefe summed up the amazing feat with a simple phrase:
"We're back ... and we're on Mars.
Now that quote -- along with a replica of the twin robot geologists roving Mars -- is forever enshrined outside the Mission:SPACE attraction at Walt Disney World's Epcot in Florida. (+View Mission:SPACE Web Site
Image left: Epcot guests congratulated NASA by signing a huge postcard (+ View Larger Image). Photo credit: Gene Duncan/Disney.
The thrill ride, which opened in October 2003, is Disney's most technologically advanced attraction ever, combining NASA-based technology with Disney's creative "Imagineering" team to send would-be astronauts on a futuristic voyage to the red planet.
NASA provided Disney with tours, briefings and discussions about human and robotic missions, as well as the challenges future missions, like a trip to Mars, might present. The attraction took five years and some 350,000 work-hours to build.
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"The attraction builds on a foundation of science fact and provides visitors a fantasy ride into the future of exploration," said Administrator O'Keefe. "It's a realistic experience that can introduce a new generation of explorers to the excitement of science, technology and discovery."
Image right: A replica rover makes tracks at a display in front of the Mission: SPACE ride. (+ View Larger Image). Photo credit: Gene Duncan/Disney.
One member of that younger generation joined Administrator O'Keefe for the ceremony. 10-year-old Sofi Collis, who won an essay contest by naming the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, was on hand to activate a replica rover, which rolled across a simulated Martian landscape shortly before the quote was revealed.
As for the real rovers traversing Mars some 300 million miles from Earth, Spirit and Opportunity have made extraordinary discoveries and found important clues to a watery past on the martian surface. The Spirit rover is driving toward the "Columbia Hills," and Opportunity has been making close examinations of a martian rock known as "Bounce" before moving toward Endurance Crater. (LATEST)
"Mission: SPACE appeals to the explorer in all of us," said Walt Disney World President Al Weiss. "NASA's triumphant Mars missions embody that spirit of exploration. We are pleased and honored to have Administrator O'Keefe's comments taking their place at Mission: SPACE alongside those of others who dared to dream," he said.