Google has paid over 1 billion dollars to lease a NASA airbase with 3 hangars for 60 years. Planetary Ventures, one of Google’s subsidiary companies, will take over management of the Moffett Federal Airfield.
“As Nasa expands its presence in space, we are making strides to reduce our footprint here on Earth,” said the Nasa administrator Charles Bolden in a press release. “Moffett Field plays an important role in the Bay Area and is poised to continue to do so through this lease arrangement.”
It’s been years since the search engine giant has shown its broad interest in other fields of technology. Among others, Google are building their own quantum computer, they have pretty much revolutionized modern cartography, they invest huge amounts into renewable energy and they plan to develop a mobile phone credit card. But their ambitions are still not quenched, and while it’s still not clear what they want to do with the NASA airbase, a $1 bn investment is a clear sign of big things coming.
This is a great deal for both sides involved – for NASA, they get some much needed money for something which they basically don’t need right now, and for Google, they not only get a great base for their future operations, but also an iconic site.
Hangar One at Moffett is one of the world’s largest freestanding structures, covering 8 acres, at a height of 60 meters. It was built in in the 1930s as a hangar for US naval airships. The building is so big that local weather can form inside of it, but it’s also pretty run down. It was listed as one of the US’s 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2008, so Google have their work cut out in restoring the building.
“We look forward to rolling up our sleeves to restore the remarkable landmark Hangar One, which for years has been considered one of the most endangered historic sites in the United States,” said David Radcliffe, vice president of real estate and workplace services at Google.
Location also probably played a key role. Moffet is situated next to Google’s “Googleplex” head quarters on the San Francisco Bay, near Mountain View, Palo Alto and Santa Clara. Google are already using it to store private jets, but they’re not giving out more information at the moment.
However, while Goggle has been very secretive regarding this investment, we did get something out from NASA, who said that the site will be used for “research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies”. This makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have expressed interests in both aviation and space exploration before. Google are not a big player in aviation and robotics at the moment, but they are taking huge strides, especially with their self-driving cars program. Also, Google are sponsoring the Lunar X Prize, a $30m competition to land a privately funded robot on the moon.
It will be really interesting to see what long-term plans the company has for the Moffett Hangars.