Rocket to the Moon
A Rocket by Any Other Name
Although Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, the “Rocket to the Moon” attraction in Tomorrowland opened five days later on July 22, a victim of Walt running out of money and leaving Tomorrowland for the last. The fabrication of the rocket began a mere 90 days before opening day itself!
The rocket itself remained outside the attraction until the 1966 closure of Tomorrowland, after which on August 12, 1967 the attraction became “The Flight to the Moon”, without apparently any rocket to get you there. (A pity that eBay didn’t exist at that time to host an auction for the rocket.) With Neal Armstrong’s landing on the moon in 1969, the attraction was redirected to a “Mission to Mars” on March 21, 1975.
With the second remodel of Tomorrowland in 1998 this space flight attraction completely disappeared, being replaced by Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port restaurant. However, the rocket is back, albeit smaller than before, blasting cooling mist on passers-by. Interestingly, the only space flight simulation attraction at any of the Disney theme parks is Mission: Space found at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. (Space Mountain doesn’t really fall into the same category as the Rocket to the Moon.)
TWA Rocket to the Moon
At the opening of Disneyland in 1955, the Rocket to the Moon attraction was sponsored by Trans World Airlines (TWA). The story goes that Howard Hughes, the majority owner of TWA at that time, dreamed that his airline would some day take passengers to the moon. He approached Walt Disney about sponsoring the attraction and placing TWA’s logo on the icon (or “wienie” as Walt called the main focal point of an area) of Tomorrowland, the Moonliner Rocket.
At the same time, TWA also placed a smaller 35 foot version on top of its corporate headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. This little sister to the 76 foot original in Disneyland, stood until the late 1960s. It currently is owned by a Disney collector in Missouri. Recently, the TWA corporate headquarters received a reprieve from the wrecking ball and is being refurbished, complete with a new TWA rocket to grace its roof.
The relationship with Disney and the sponsorship of the attraction by TWA continued until about 1962 at which time the sponsorship was picked up by The Douglas Aircraft Company, an aircraft manufacturer. The 1962 map reflects this change.
- Article in the Kansas City Star on August 13, 2006 regarding the remodeling of the TWA building.
- Yesterland article on the Rocket to the Moon attraction
- Gordon, B., Mumford, D., (2000) Disneyland : The Nickel Tour. Camphor Tree Publishers. Santa Clarita, CA.