A fair makeover for a “Fair” that made the cover

Space Needle

On April 21, 1962 the Century 21 Exposition opened its gates in Seattle. The six-month Expo attracted some 10 million visitors and left an indelible vision of what the future would be like for a generation coming of age in the Space Age.

The Expo was developed during the early efforts to get humans into space. It featured the first pavilion ever by NASA, the United States’ space agency. It was funded in part by federal spending spurred by the Soviet’s launch of the satellite Sputnik. And it was built during the first successful manned space flights. John Glenn’s Friendship 7 space capsule, in which the astronaut orbited the earth, was exhibited at the Expo, which was also visited by astronauts and cosmonauts.

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Seattle ascending: Expo 1962 on a mission

Seattle ascending: Expo 1962 on a mission

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.

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Beaming power from Space: Seattle’s Solar Satellite

Beaming power from Space: Seattle’s Solar Satellite

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.

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A childhood memory of Expo 1962 Seattle, the “jewel box fair”

A childhood memory of Expo 1962 Seattle, the “jewel box fair”

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.

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The King at Seattle’s World Fair

The King at Seattle’s World Fair

If the Century 21 Exposition, which took place in Seattle in 1962, was mainly aimed at promoting American scientific research and its leadership in spatial exploration, it was also the place for the shooting of a musical produced by Metro Goldwyn Mayer headlined by the famous actor and singer Elvis Presley. The plot of "It happened at the World's Fair" produced by Norman Taurog, takes place on the Seattle World Fair's site in a scenery which is both futuristic and very representative of the American 60's society. We follow the adventures of two friends, Danny and Mike, who decide to go to the World's Fair to find a job because of their debts.

The film crew arrived in Seattle on 5th September 1962, when the Expo had already been in full swing for five months. This date was not chosen randomly because it was precisely the start of the school year. The director wanted to avoid as much as possible scenes of massive hysteria caused by teenage fans of the "King". Unfortunately for him, young people from around tried by all means to come closer to their idol. Actually, there are numerous stories from fans: series of fainting, snatches of conversation with Elvis, or, for Sue Waters, an 18 year old lucky girl, four dates with the King.

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