There are a few icons at Disneyland that just can’t be missed. Obviously, there is Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Matterhorn and the other mountains, the Train Station, and the Mark Twain. Another one, that might be first on the list, is the Astro Orbiter. It is nearly impossible to walk through the Hub and not see this at the entrance to Tomorrowland. As guests whiz around the skies above Tomorrowland, the Astro Orbiter continues to keep Tomorrowland on the move.
The origins of the Astro Orbiter go back to 1956. It was then that the first spinning rocket attraction opened at Disneyland. Found between the Submarine Lagoon and Rocket to the Moon. Called the Astro Jets at the time, this attraction took guests on a 50-foot circle as it spun around lifting guests as high as 36 feet. In the middle was a large rocket. Things would begin to change though.
In 1964 the attraction received a new name, Tomorrowland Jets. This was due to one of Disneyland’s sponsor (United Airlines who sponsored the Tiki Room) feeling that Astro Jets was too similar to the Astrojet service that American Airline provided. This was the name of the attraction until 1966 when it was closed to make way for the new Tomorrowland.
When the attraction returned in 1967, it had a new name and a new home. For many, this is the home that is most commonly remembered when thinking about classic Tomorrowland. Now called the Rocket Jets, it was found atop the PeopleMover platform in the center of Tomorrowland. It was centered on a Nasa-themed rocket built to look like the Saturn V. This version would remain in Tomorrowland for the next thirty years until it closed for another Tomorrowland redesign.
One year later, a new version of the attraction opened. This time, it was at its current home at the entrance of Tomorrowland. It also had a new name and ride-system. Called the Astro Orbiter, it was a replica of Orbitron, Machines Volantes at Disneyland Paris. Though many people have speculated through the years that it would (or should) be moved back to its old home atop the PeopleMover platform, this has never happened. Instead, the remnants/mechanics of the Rocket Jets were turned into the Observatron that sits there still today.
Around the Globe
There are versions of the attraction found throughout the world at other Disney Theme Parks. In Florida at the Magic Kingdom, the Astro Orbiter (Formerly the Star Jets) find guests blasting through Tomorrowland above the PeopleMover platform. At Disneyland Paris, the Orbitron, Machines Volantes can be found in Discoveryland. There is no longer a version of the attraction at Tokyo Disneyland as it has been closed to make way for The Happy Ride with Baymax. At Hong Kong Disneyland guests can fly aboard a modified version of the ride called the Orbitron. Guests ride aboard flying saucers instead of rockets in this version. Finally, Shanghai Disneyland has its own version of the attraction called Jet Packs.
Astro Orbiter Ride-Through
The Astro Orbiter is a simple ride experience but a fun one. It can be a bit dizzying for people who don’t do spinning too well. However, for those who can enjoy that type of experience, it can offer some beautiful views. One of the best time to ride it is at sunset! I personally would love to see the Astro Orbiter return to the center of Tomorrowland where it once stood. I don’t know the logistics of that though as I can’t imagine how much work would need to be done to the structures there to make it solid enough for today’s standards. What the future holds for the Astro Orbiter currently seems to be the status quo. However, one of the great things about Disneyland is things can always change!
What do you think of the Astro Orbiter? If you could have it placed anywhere in Tomorrowland, where would you like to see it put? Share your thoughts in the comments below!