Horizons Century2 Space Colonization

Spring 2017
Design Project 2
Academy of Art University
MFA in Industrial Design


For me, growing up in the 80s and 90s, Horizons the ride was one of my favorite memories. The inherent optimism and believability of the experience has stuck with me several decades later. For my project, I wanted to design something in the spirit of Horizons that conveyed the same optimism for the future and believability. I imagined and designed a one-person vehicle for a new Horizons Space Colonization experience.

Project Background

Horizons was a book by Designer Norman Belle Geddes that was published in 1932. Geddes put forth ideas for buildings, trains, airplanes, ships, and cars that while not feasible in the 1930’s, would some day be possible.

Walt Disney’s EPCOT theme park unveiled a ride called Horizons in the early 1980’s. It portrayed visions, designs and technologies pertaining to the future of space colonization, ocean colonization, and arid-zone agriculture. Each of these tracks involved a one-person transportation vehicle that served as the avatar for the riders experience of the future. Around the turn of the century, Horizons the ride was dismantled and replaced with a thrill ride. The sequel to the Carousel of Progress was torn down.

Horizons Century 2, or C2 (for the second century of Horizons) will portray a future 20 years from the time the new ride will open — looking ahead to the 2050’s. This new ride would open in 2032, for the 100th anniversary of the book Horizons and almost 50 years after the original ride opened.

Design Goals

  • Communicate the fun possibilities of new science and material applications
  • Demonstrate an optimistic and (mostly) realistic look at the future
  • Develop a futuristic vehicle aesthetic that looks and feels believable
  • Create a user experience for flying in a spacecraft that is like driving a car

Research Summary

I first had to develop a vision of what the world could look like in the early 2030’s to understand the audience for the ride itself. Then I had to extrapolate outwards to believable technologies of the 2050’s.

The “future” from 2032 will include:

  • A spacecraft chassis 3d printed in-space from advanced plastics, which provides superior micrometeoroid and radiation protection.
  • Autonomous operations and maintenance will be everywhere.
  • Glass windows will have been replaced with high resolution two-way displays that allow you to look out of, into, and through the vehicle.
  • Displays and controls will make use of virtual haptics embedded in wearables or even implanted under the skin.
  • Power and high thrust propulsion will be provided by miniaturized fusion reactors and fusion propulsion system.

Research into the vehicle itself was extensive, based primarily on my understanding of historical spacecraft development. I created an extensive research report looking at multiple spacecraft from the 1960’s through the present day. However, this project was focused on designing the crew accommodations, working on ingress and egress, as well as internal and external styling and design.

This was my first project where I specifically applied aesthetic and usability characteristics of elegance derived during my dissertation research.

Toward the Horizon of Tomorrow

While wrapping up this project, I realized that this design activity was an early 40th birthday present to myself. It’s to remind me that my century is Century 3, the 3rd American Century. And the 3rd American Century is only 40 years old, which regardless of the progress that has not happened, and the disappointments that have piled up, means there’s a lot of century left, 60 years, to still dedicate to reaching towards these new horizons.