With a 200-foot-high ceiling and a floor surface covering eight acres, Hangar One at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., is an appropriate place from which to launch some very big ideas. That seems to be the thinking behind NASA’s announcement in November that the Internet giant Google, and its subsidiary Planetary Ventures LLC, had signed a lease for the use of 1,000 acres at Moffett Field, including Hangars One, Two and Three, for $1.16 billion over a 60-year term.
The agreement lifts a significant burden from NASA, which has maintained the site since 1994 at a cost of about $6.3 million annually, and was facing substantial additional expenditures to restore the aging hangars. Hangar One was built in the early 1930s to house the enormous but ultimately ill-fated airship USS Macon. “We want to invest taxpayer resources in scientific discovery, technology development and space exploration—not in maintaining infrastructure we no longer need,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
Just what Google plans to do with the property remains tantalizingly vague. In addition to the cost of the lease agreement, the company will pour at least $200 million into property improvements, ranging from refurbishing the historic but badly aging hangars to creating an educational facility open to the public. Additionally, the NASA statement indicated the hangars would be used for the “research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies.”
Google has a clear interest in emerging technologies, with publicly acknowledged projects ranging from Google Glass to self-driving cars. The company’s Project Wing is currently exploring the use of drones for product delivery. Google executives will also likely enjoy use of the airfield’s two runways and a private golf course on the site.