Google Rents NASA Airfield For $1.16 Billion To Do Who Knows What With

Seeking to reduce its footprint on earth to save resources for space, NASA is giving Google the keys to the historic Moffett Field Naval Air Station outside of San Francisco in a $1.16 billion lease agreement, Google announced Monday. Moffett Field, which is located mere miles from Google’s Mountain View complex, contains the storied Hanger One — one of the largest freestanding buildings in the world.

At more than eight acres, the behemoth of Hanger One is so large that weather can form inside near the ceiling. Absurd, right? What on earth could Google get up to in a hanger so large that blimps could easily move in and out of it?

For its part, Google has not said what it plans to do with its new complex for the next 60 years of its lease, but speculation has run rampant about the Internet giant’s potential forays into space aviation and robotics. According to NASA, Google plans to use the facility for “research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies."

As Ryan Lawler haphazarded at Tech Crunch, perhaps the corporation will locate its semi-secret Google X lab where scientists work on “moonshot” projects — ideas that have little chance of succeeded but could effect Copernican revolutions if they do.

NASA made the decision to lease the facility in order to cut down on its maintenance costs. In its press release, the agency hawked the $6.3 million in taxpayer dollars that would be saved each year under the arrangement.

As NASA expands its presence in space, we are making strides to reduce our footprint here on Earth, said NASA administrator Charles Bolden. We want to invest taxpayer resources in scientific discovery, technology development and space exploration – not in maintaining infrastructure we no longer need.

In turn, Google has stipulated that it will invest $200 million in restoring Hanger One, continue to run the complex’s airfield and create an educational space about the complex for the public.

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According to David Radcliffe, Vice President of Real Estate and Workplace Services, Google is motivated in part by a desire to save the historic site from falling into further disrepair. (And most likely, by the fact that Google executives already store their private planes at the air base.)

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, Radcliffe said in the press release.

Even with visions of space ships and hover boards floating, NASA’s announcement didn’t go over well with everyone. The nonprofit Consumer Watchdog criticized the space agency’s decision to lease the land to Google for the next six decades as “unprecedented control of a federal facility to use as its own playground.”

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Whether Google is planning a serious foray into space technologies and aviation remains to be seen. (Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are notably interested in space; they are funding the Lunar X Prize, a $30 million competition for the first private company to land a robot on the moon.)

But provided that the corporation is willing to take care of the historic Hanger One and still give the public access to a portion of the complex, then handing the airfield over doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat to our earthly interests.

Images: Getty Images (3)