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Spaceship Earth - is it just a giant golf ball?
Spaceship Earth at Epcot is one of the most recognisable structures of Walt Disney World. It looks like a giant golf ball, but have you ever wondered exactly how it is constructed?
Geometrically, it is a pentakis dodecahedron , which is constructed of 60 equilateral triangle faces, each of which is divided into 16 smaller equilateral triangles making 960 triangular panels altogether. Each of those 960 panels is divided into 4 triangles and each one of them is sub-divided into 3 isosceles triangles, which form the points. If you have done the maths correctly, you will have worked out that there should be 11,520 individual triangles altogether. Actually some of the triangles are missing due to support struts and doors and so the total number of triangles in the sphere is just 11,324. Spaceship Earth is raised 18 feet (5 metres) off the ground on huge pylons which are sunk 120 feet (37 metres) into the ground. It is 180 feet (55 metres) high, 164 feet in diameter and it weighs 15,520,000 pounds which is the same as 158 million golf balls!
The interior steel structure of the sphere is a massive table which is formed by deep trusses and six legs. None of the legs is directly under the sphere so that it gives the impression of it floating in the air. Extending up from the table are structures which support the smaller beams that form the actual shell of the steel skeleton. The triangular panels have a self cleaning skin made of an aluminium and plastic-alloy compound and, to allow for utilities to serve the sphere, the panels stand away from the skeleton of the sphere on steel pipes.
At the top of the steel structure there is a small car where a technician has just enough room to lie down, and it can be moved around the sphere to carry out any repairs that are necessary.
When it rains (which it does a lot in Florida of course!), the unique drainage system has been designed in such a way that no water pours off the sides of the sphere. The rainwater is very cleverly collected through one inch gaps in the triangles and pours into a gutter system which channels it into underground drains and takes it away to the World Showcase Lagoon.
Spaceship Earth is constructed from 1,700 tons of steel. Nearly fifty thousand labour hours were needed for the construction, which took 26 months to complete before it opened, when the park opened, on October 1st 1982.
You might look at it differently next time you see it!!
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Page added on: 17 October 2006
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