Destination 2016: Seattle

The Seattle skyline is dominated by the Space Needle, a futurist tower constructed for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, otherwise known as the Century 21 Exposition, after its general theme, the 21st century.

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Urban Innovation
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The paint colors used for the Needle had space-age names: astronaut white, orbital olive, re-entry red and galaxy gold; it was the ’60s and the space race dominated headlines. The exposition and the Space Needle presaged not just America’s arrival on the moon but also, a half century later, the emergence of an industry based in Seattle with perhaps greater potential to change the future of humanity than any other: commercial space exploration.

“We could, of course, set up the company anywhere in the world,” says Chris Lewicki, CEO of asteroid-mining startup Planetary Resources. “We very specifically chose Seattle.” The reasons? The city and its surrounding suburbs have a unique mix of resources that make it an ideal location for space startups. One of those resources—relatively cheap land and warehouse and hangar space—has been an attraction for the major legacy aerospace companies that have called Seattle home for many years. Boeing opened its very first factory here in 1916, and Aerojet, a major rocket-thruster manufacturer, has had a massive presence for many years as well. This aerospace talent is complemented by tech talent from companies that call the Seattle area home, including Microsoft and Amazon. And the University of Washington is working with Seattle officials to establish a dedicated aerospace institute in the city.

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