Bill Watkins, 87, the man behind the beloved Disney ride Space Mountain, took one final trip through the stars last week.
The retired engineer, who created the classic indoor coaster and was the first to ride it when it debuted at Disneyland in 1977, hadn’t been on the ride himself in 13 years, according to the Orange County Register, which documented his visit to the park on February 7.
Watkins was convinced to go for one more spin around the galaxy by a fellow coaster enthusiast, 29-year-old Kyle King, who reached out to the octogenarian Imagineer after reading about him in a local paper.
“This will probably be my last ride,” Watkins said of his visit. “I suppose it’s goodbye.” His statement ended up only being half true, though: According to the Disney Parks blog, after a tour of the attraction, he ended up riding twice!
In addition to engineering the Space Mountain rides at both Walt Disney World Resort and the Disneyland Resort, Watkins developed the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and worked on a number of other attractions. He also oversaw the opening of Epcot.
Since it opened nearly 40 years ago, more than 250 million guests have ridden Space Mountain at Disneyland alone.