Google leases Nasa airbase for robots, planes and space exploration

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Google has leased a Nasa airfield in San Francisco, which includes three hangers capable of housing robotics research and space-exploration vehicles.

The 60-year, $1.16bn (£732m) lease of Moffett Field Naval Air Station on the San Francisco peninsula includes a $200m commitment to refurbish the hangers and improve the site with a museum and educational facilities.

“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.”

“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.

Google declined to comment further on its plans for the airfield.

Space exploration, aviation and robotics

The 1,000 acre site includes a private golf course, a working airfield, two runways, an operations building and three large hangers, including the historic Hanger One. Google secured the lease through its real estate subsidiary Planetary Ventures for “research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies”.

Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have expressed interests in both aviation and space exploration before, offering a $20m prize to any private company that can land a robot on the moon, travel 500m and send back images before the end of 2015.

The company recently acquired several robotics and satellite firms, including Boston Dynamics – the robotics outfit responsible for the military robotic packhorse Big Dog, the running robot Cheetah and the humanoid robot Atlas.

The robotics, satellite and space ventures fall under Google’s “moonshot” X Lab responsible for Google Glass, Project Loon and most recently a venture into health care and medical equipment including a cancer- and heart-attack detecting pill.

‘Important landmark in Silicon Valley’

Hanger One at Moffett is one of the world’s largest freestanding structures covering eight acres, built in the 1930s as a hanger for US naval airships, including the USS Macon built in 1933. The hanger is so big that weather such as fog can form inside, just under the ceiling.

The 60m high building was designated as a US Naval Historical Monument in 1966 but was listed as one of the US’s 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2008.

Moffet is situated next to Google’s “Googleplex” head quarters on the San Francisco Bay, near Mountain View, Palo Alto and Santa Clara. It is already being used by Google to store its private jets, while a section of the land forms part of Google’s expanding campus.

“Hangar One is an important landmark in Silicon Valley,” said US General Services Administration (GSA) administrator Dan Tangherlini. “GSA was proud to support NASA in delivering the best value to taxpayers while restoring this historic facility and enhancing the surrounding community.”

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 11th November 2014 11.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010