What Is the Space Needle? (2024)

Wonder of the Day #1613

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What Is the Space Needle? (1)

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Have You Ever Wondered...

  • What is the Space Needle?
  • How tall is the Space Needle?
  • When was the Space Needle built?

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  • Geography,
  • History,
  • Pacific Northwest,
  • Mountain,
  • Ocean,
  • City,
  • Seattle,
  • Tourist,
  • Landmark,
  • Skyline,
  • Tower,
  • Unidentified,
  • Flying,
  • Object,
  • Ufo,
  • Space Needle,
  • World’S Fair,
  • Iconic,
  • Stuttgart Tower,
  • Germany,
  • Edward E. Carlson,
  • Structure,
  • Balloon,
  • Architect,
  • John Graham,
  • Saucer,
  • Foundation,
  • Cement,
  • Concrete,
  • Carbon,
  • Steel,
  • Observation,
  • Gravity,
  • Revolving,
  • Restaurant,
  • Icon,
  • Landscape,
  • Destination,
  • Mount Rainier,
  • Elliott Bay,
  • Olympic,
  • Wind,
  • Earthquake,
  • Magnitude,
  • Lightning,
  • Rod,
  • Strike,
  • Elevator,
  • Skycity,
  • Pacific,
  • Northwest,
  • Washington,
  • Cascade,
  • Building,
  • Architecture,
  • Construction

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Laurie. Laurie Wonders, “What is the Seattle Space Needle?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Laurie!

Have you ever been to the Pacific Northwest? In addition to beautiful mountains and gorgeous ocean views, you can also enjoy a slice of life in the big city. Seattle, for example, offers a multitude of unique opportunities for residents and tourists alike.

If you travel to Seattle, there's one landmark you're sure to notice right away. Standing tall against the backdrop of the city skyline, you'll spot something that looks a bit like a tower crossed with an unidentified flying object (UFO). What are we talking about? The Space Needle, of course!

In 1962, Seattle hosted the World's Fair, which focused on what life might be like in the 21st century. The city wanted an iconic landmark to be built for the World's Fair that would represent its futuristic vision.

Inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany, Edward E. Carlson sketched an initial drawing that featured a structure that resembled a tethered balloon. Over several years and with input from others, including architect John Graham, Carlson's design morphed into the familiar flying saucer shape we know today.

When it was time to build, experts knew the tall structure needed a solid foundation. It took 467 cement trucks over 12 hours to pour concrete into a hole that was 30 feet deep and 120 feet wide.

When the enormous underground foundation was completed, it weighed almost the same as the carbon steel Space Needle structure itself. As a result, the huge observation tower's center of gravity is just five feet above ground!

The Space Needle was completed in December 1961, and it opened to the public on April 21, 1962, the first day of the World's Fair. Featuring an observation deck with 360-degree views of Seattle and the surrounding area, as well as a revolving restaurant, the Space Needle was a huge hit with the over two million visitors of the World's Fair.

Today, the Space Needle remains an icon of the Seattle landscape. It's one of the top tourist destinations in the city, where visitors can view Mount Rainier, Elliott Bay, and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.

The Space Needle stands 605 feet tall and is 138 feet wide. Weighing 9,550 tons, the structure can withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour, as well as earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude. The top of the Space Needle also features 25 lightning rods that help to absorb and disperse the many lightning strikes the structure receives each day.

Many visitors enjoy the 41-second elevator ride to the observation deck at 520 feet. If you're hungry, you can also enjoy a gourmet meal at the rotating SkyCity restaurant just below the observation deck.

Wonder What's Next?

We wouldn’t CHANGE a thing about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!

Try It Out

Ready to learn even more about the Space Needle? Find a few friends or family members to help you explore the following activities:

  • Want to get a live look at Seattle and what's going on around the Space Needle? Jump online to check out the Space Needle Webcam! Explore fabulous views from high above the Seattle skyline!
  • For another spectacular online experience that's the next best thing to being at the top of the Space Needle, check out the Space Needle Panocam, which provides 360-degree, panoramic views of the area. Which view is your favorite? Why?
  • Up for a challenge? Design a landmark monument for the city you live in. If there was going to be a World's Fair held today, what kind of monument would you want to build to showcase your city's unique flair? Draw a sketch of your creation and share it with friends and family members. What do they think? Is your idea cooler than the Space Needle?

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Wonder Contributors

We’d like to thank:

owen from TX
for contributing questions about today’s Wonder topic!

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Wonder Words

  • build
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  • icon
  • hole
  • rod
  • wind
  • landmark
  • skyline
  • concrete
  • saucer
  • disperse
  • absorb
  • enormous
  • morphed
  • tethered
  • futuristic
  • backdrop
  • multitude

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