Google Wins Contract to Lease NASA-Owned Historic Airfield


Google-backed Planetary Ventures won a contract to lease Hanger One at Moffett Federal Airfield from NASA.
Image: NASA

Google executives have been parking their private jets at NASA-owned Moffett Airfield since 2007, but now the company is poised to officially lease the Silicon Valley space.

Planetary Ventures, Google’s real estate subsidiary company, won a contract to lease the historic Hangar One at Moffett, which is located just a few miles from Google‘s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Though the specifics of the contract are not yet set in stone, Planetary Ventures has essentially agreed to take over operational costs of the facility and rehabilitate it.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called the deal one part of a larger effort to save tax dollars by “making surplus or under-utilized property available to the private sector or other government partners,” in a statement released Monday.

The Google Maps image below shows Google’s proximity to Hangar One.

(Click to enlarge)

Google and Hangar One

Image: Google

Under this week’s deal, Planetary Ventures is also expected to rehabilitate Hangars Two and Three, located on the far side of the airfield on the map, and create an public educational facility on the premises.

Another Google subsidiary, H211, previously inked a deal (.pdf) with NASA in 2007, which allowed Google’s executives to park their private jets at Moffett. In exchange, the Google team had to pay rent and use the planes to assist in scientific research.

A September 2013 report by NBC News found evidence that Google took advantage of the relationship. Through a yearlong investigation, the outlet discovered that Google purchased millions of dollars of below-market fuel price from the government for a fleet of nine jets, while only a small percentage of the company’s flights served scientific purposes.

Google 757

A Boeing 757-23A owned by Google executives is parked at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Image: Flickr, Andy Rusch

NASA took over stewardship of Moffett in 1994; previously, the Navy and other branches of the military used the building. NASA was forced to close Hangar One in 2002, however, after realizing that materials used to construct the building’s outer siding in 1932 were the source of toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) discovered in 1997.

After several stopgap measures, the Navy removed the building’s skin in early 2013. As part of Hangar One’s rehabilitation, Planetary Ventures is expected to re-skin the structure.

The new Hangar One deal underscores an increasingly close relationship between Google and NASA. The two organizations are working together to develop an ultra-high tech quantum computer, and they have previously collaborated on projects such as Google Earth.

Scroll through the gallery below for more images of Moffett Airfield.

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