Colorado's aerospace industry was destined to grow because of its location. The state's central vicinity in the United States made it less vulnerable to enemy attack.
Also important was the military's ability to bounce shortwave radio signals to both its Asian and European operations from Colorado bases.
During World War II, Colorado's Lowry and Peterson Army air bases developed competencies in photographic intelligence. These photoreconnaissance capabilities were later transferred to space applications to monitor and manage surveillance and communication satellites.
The Glenn L. Martin Company (now Lockheed Martin Space Systems) in 1955 established a plant in Waterton Canyon (southwest Denver) to build the Titan intercontinental ballistic missile. The site was considered a highly strategic central-U.S. location.
In 1957, the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) was established and activated at the Ent Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. In the late 1950s, a plan was developed to construct a command and control center in a hardened facility (Cheyenne Mountain) as a Cold War defense.
Peterson Field, located in Colorado Springs, would evolve over the next several decades as a hub of Air Force space activities and the location of four military commands. Air Force presence stimulated development of a space industry and related research at Colorado universities.
For nearly 70 years, the combination of Air Force presence, open space, high altitude, space-related science, and community boosterism made Colorado "A Mile Closer to Space," and formed the second-largest space economy in the nation and directly employs 25,110 workers.
“It's human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand. Exploration is not a choice, really; it's an imperative.” Michael Collins, former astronaut