Monday, April 7, 2014

What Spaceship Earth Should Be

Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time; and for a brief moment we have been among its passengers.”

Grand, inspiring words – that have almost no connection to the attraction that follows.

Don't get me wrong; I really enjoy Spaceship Earth. I've been on every version since it opened and loved them all. But in my opinion, the actual attraction really doesn't tie in well with its name or stated theme. It's the story of how humans communicate. That's a nice story, but I don't think it has a scope that deserves either its appellation or its location as your gateway into Future World.

So what should be there?

Over the past month, I have fallen completely in love with Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It's everything Epcot's Future World should be: engaging, enlightening, entertaining, educational, enthralling. And its theme is perfect for Spaceship Earth: it explores how we discovered the laws of nature and found our coordinates in space and time. Here we board the "Ship of the Imagination" (how Epcot-y is that?), the show's narrative device to explore the universe's past, present, and future. Host Neil deGrasse Tyson shows us where the Earth sits in the scope of the known universe, defining the Earth's "address" within it. He explains how humanity has not always seen the universe in this manner, and describes the hardships and persecution of scientists and free-thinkers as they've helped humanity move forward into new ages of discovery. Episode by episode, we are introduced to awe-inspiring concepts in a way that's easy to understand without being condescending. It does a far better job explaining our role as passengers on “this, our Spaceship Earth” than the attraction ever has.

And just think, we could end that ongoing debate over which narrator of  Spaceship Earth was superior, because the obvious choice for this improved version would be Tyson himself. His passion for the material shines through in every episode of Cosmos, and would give the attraction far more life than any of the hosts have thus far. Further, we'd then have both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy in Future World attractions – and if the goal of Future World (as stated on its dedication plaque) is to “entertain, inform and inspire, and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere" – isn't that just how it should be?

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