One of the first things you hear walking into Epcot is “Hey! Look at the giant golf ball!” Many of us Disnerds laugh it off but we all know it is much more than that! Taking countless hours designing this ride and a full 26 months to build, I decided to make a post about Spaceship Earth!
Walt Disney wanted the idea of Spaceship Earth to come to life, but unfortunately he died before it could be built. The idea was always put to the side until one Imagineer by the name of John Hench, who thought of building Spaceship Earth like a table. Having beams that will support the upper layer of the dome and would let the lower dome hang down.
Developing the Structure:
Because a geodesic sphere was a concept and had little engineering information on it, Imagineers had to consult in MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to conduct a wind test on a 1/16″ = 1 scale model. They wanted to test the pressure coefficients for the design and wind pressure that would be blown underneath the sphere. Designers didn’t want the wind to knock down guest as they walked under the structure.
Another problem Imagineers faced was determining how they can distribute the weight more evenly. If they were to place the shell (outer layer) on the six legs this would cause too much stress which would cause the sphere to buckle in. Because of this they decided to keep the shell independent of the six beams.
To get the beams 120 to 185 feet in the ground, they drove it into the ground supported by pile groups. They connected the beams by a hexagonal truss and reinforced it with interior trusses to form a platform. The hexagonal trusses are what carries the 16 million pounds of equipment!
Because the platform was crucial, they needed to apply some dead load to the trusses before adding the shell. This helped out because they were able to build some of the show structure before the beginning construction on the shell. This ended up working well for Imagineers because both the construction of the shell and show could occur together.
Once they completed most of the Show structure, they had to begin transitioning the hexagonal trusses to the shell. Imagineers used “quadrupods” which are shaped liked pyramids formed from piping. These were connected to the hexagonal trusses and the tops of the quadrupods were connected with support hubs to make an interlocking ring of sphere struts. Once they completed this step, they could finally move onto the shell. Pretty much the shell is two domes – one on top of the other.
Spaceship Earth is actually two layers thick! The inside layer, which is made of rubber and is where the ride is located. The outside layer is made of aluminum, but the cool thing is that the triangular pieces you see are polished aluminum on the outside and a flexible plastic material in between. This “alucobond” is flexible, unbreakable, shock and weather-resistant. Because of this Imagineers invented a gutter system in between the first and second layer. This collects the water through a funnel system which it is then emptied into the World Showcase Lagoon!
Imagineers decided to use an Omnimover system! Imagineer Bob Gurr combined the terms OmniRange and PeopleMover, which then created the term Omnimover. Omnimover also comes from the root terms “omni” meaning “all” or “every” and “mover” meaning “mover”. Roger Broggie and Bert Brundage at WED Enterprises developed and patented the technology
Developing the Story line:
Disney consulted many companies including:
- Los Angeles’ Huntington Library
- University of Southern California
- University of Chicago
- Smithsonian Institute
Most importantly they asked Science-Fiction writer Ray Bradbury and Buckminster Fuller on its structure and story line!
Make sure to check out my last post for the dialogue and audio of the ride!