Fifty-five years ago today, on 21 October 1962, the Seattle World’s Fair, also known as the Century 21 Exposition or Expo 1962, closed its six-month run. It had been an unqualified success with some 10 million visitors. It made a small profit, raised awareness of Seattle’s emergence as a modern tech city and provided the city with a recognisable international symbol in the Space Needle.
Striking the set on the first Space Age Expo was not the end of the story. The fair came to be because in the mid-1950s city voters had approved funding for a “civic center,” and fair boosters used that funding to leverage additional public and private money for an Expo that would result in a permanent cultural hub.
Extreme weather conditions and rising global temperatures are leading researchers to reconsider unconventional solutions such as Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP), as envisioned by scientists since the 1960s. This would be the perfect solution to climate change because solar power captured in outer space would not be vulnerable to poor weather, have zero greenhouse gas emissions and be unaffected by day and night cycles, unlike 23% of current incoming solar energy.
This untapped potential for Space-Based Solar Power was revealed when Telstar 1 (the world’s first active communication satellite) was used to beam scenes from Expo 1962 Seattle and transmit the first intercontinental television broadcast. The sphere satellite was powered by 3,600 solar cells and weighed over 77 kilos. It was a joint project by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the British and French governments, which broadcasted a panoramic view of the striking Space Needle and other interesting sights and sounds from the Expo.
On April 21, 1962 - 55 years ago - Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition, also called the Seattle World’s Fair, opened its gates. My first memory of the fair dates from late 1961 when my Cub Scout group went to the top of a downtown office building. From there we could see the Space Needle rising—its iconic saucer top was just taking shape. We boys—I was eight years old at the time—were thrilled.
The theme of Century 21 was exactly one to inspire us: “Man in the Space Age.” Our small city in the far Northwest of America was becoming ground zero for the New Frontier. Science fiction was becoming reality.