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Galaxie Express (Space Center)

After being delayed for over a year, Space Center finally opened its doors on December 19th. This day was the first of the three-month Soft Opening phase of the park, meant to get the staff used to the rides and to fine tune the park. During this phase, visitors are being questioned extensively for their opinions concerning the park. The park is scheduled to officially open on February 11th and 12th. Space Center is a unique indoor theme park (the largest one in Europe) and home of the worlds first so-called virtual reality coaster, the Galaxie Express.

All systems standby. The ride will commence in a few seconds.
Galaxie Express is located in the park's Moon Base 1 section.
For our introduction, we move to the Southern German town of Rust. One of the older rides of Europa-Park is the Kamtschatka Airline Klub, formerly known as Taiga Shuttle. This old simulator hadn't been too popular in recent years, so the parks owner, Roland Mack, decided it was time for a change. After a meeting with his design department, it became clear that would prefer Taiga Shuttle to be demolished. They felt the concept of the motion simulator was outdated. Mack, however, still believed in the potential of the motion simulator and still though of the antique Taiga Shuttle of a valuable addition of the park. He ordered the design department to update the old Taiga Shuttle. The result became known as Kamtschatka Airline Klub (most likely better known as KAK).

Roland Mack's love for the motion simulator can be found in the latest ride innovation of the Mack company; the virtual reality coaster. This creation is a mixture of a motion simulator and a powered family roller coaster. The basis of this ride is Mack's well-known Blauer Enzian powered coaster. The trains however, have been completely redesigned, containing a box to be placed over the head of every rider. That might sound a bit strange, but I don't know how to better describe it. It really is nothing more than a box with an LCD display in it. A small other difference is that every rider has an individual lap bar, in contrary to the double lap bar found on all other Blauer Enzian models. When the lap bar gets pulled down, the box will also lower a few inches, so it can be easily grabbed by the rider. For safety reasons and to prevent nausea the rider has to hold the box in place during the ride; it will not be locked in place.

Just like any other ride, Galaxie Express has a queue line. Interesting part of this queue are the modern and futuristic projection screens which show the safety films and the explanation of the count-down system. When entering a queue line in Space Center, you must first scan your entrance card. This system has a lot of advantages for the park. The park can, for instance, gather detailed statistics on popularity of a certain ride, or certain visitors can be banned from a ride. A logical consequence of this system is that if you loose your entrance card, you can no longer make use of any of the park's rides.

When everyone has boarded and the train has been cleared, the experience commences. The screen, which until then only showed the text "all systems standby", now shows the runaway from which you will depart with your spacecraft for a ride through the universe. The moment you depart on the screen, the coaster is set into motion, and starts its run through the course. The movements seen on the screen are enhanced by the turns and changes in speed of the train. You don't only see yourself travelling at light speed; it will also feel like that, even though the small coaster only reaches speeds of approximately 25 miles per hour. A helix can suddenly feel like a 90 degree drop into the surface of a hostile planet. Reaching the rings of Jupiter turns into an unpleasant experience due to some major head banging. Even though the video and the movements of the train are completely synchronised, it can be doubted this roughness was meant to be. At the end of the course, you will touch down on the runway once more, and all systems will return to standby. It's time to disembark.

A train whooshes through the impressive main hallway.
The idea of this roller coaster certainly is original. Unfortunately, this ride looks better on paper than it is in reality. You are seated rather uncomfortable in the train, mainly due to the fact that you have the hold the box in place over your head. There are two rough spots in the track, which can best be described as painful. Especially the collision with one of Jupiter's rings, as mentioned above, can be very painful if you don't expect it. However, the ride is unique and shouldn't be missed, if you happen to be near Bremen.

Unfortunately, Galaxie Express was having a lot of technical problems during the Soft Opening and the staff didn't seem to know how to handle the ride yet. Loading and unloading was taking a huge amount of time causing the capacity to be very low. The longest loading time we were able to measure was over 15 minutes. We can only hope that these problems will be resolved in time for the official opening. Otherwise, the queue lines for this ride will be extremely long.

-Frank Cornelissen, Jeroen Schat and Peter van der Schans