February 11, 2014
Google And NASA Reach Agreement Over Iconic Hangar One
[ Watch the Video: Iconic Hangar One Has Been Leased To Google ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The moth-balled facility has been under the care of NASA's Ames Research Center for the past 23 years and the Google-backed Planetary Ventures LLC is expected to renovate the hangar and surrounding airfield, mostly for use by executives’ private planes.
According to the Associated Press, the terms of the agreement are still being worked out among Google, NASA and the General Services Administration.
"We are delighted to move ahead in the selection process and we look forward to working with both GSA and NASA to preserve the heritage of Moffett Federal Airfield," Google said in a statement.
NASA officials described the selection of the lessee as a benefit for taxpayers. Besides taking over daily expenses for the airfield, Google is also spending money on improvements that would have probably not been undertaken by the government.
"At NASA we're not only committed to exploring our solar system, but also making sure we're spending tax dollars wisely,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “That's why we've been so aggressive at making surplus or under-utilized property available to the private sector or other government partners.”
“The agreement announced today will benefit the American taxpayer and the community around Moffett,” Bolden said. “It will allow NASA to focus its resources on core missions, while protecting the federal need to use Moffett Field as a continued, limited-use airfield. This decision today represents a tremendously effective partnership between NASA and our sister agency the GSA, and we're grateful for their leadership in this endeavor."
The new lease, which gives Google usage of three new hangars and 90,000 square feet of building space, is predicted to resuscitate a highly visible Silicon Valley icon – Hangar One. Built in the 1930s, NASA took over Hangar One in 1994. In 1997, the space agency found toxic PCBs in the hangar – causing NASA to remove its siding and making the hangar off-limits ever since.
"Hangar One was the landmark of Silicon Valley well before the rise of today's high tech titans,” said GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini. “Naming a lessee is a testament to GSA's commitment to providing the best value for the agency's federal partners and the American people. NASA's partnership with the private sector will allow the agency to restore this treasure for more efficient use. GSA's creative approach to putting underperforming federal facilities to new uses creates opportunities for development while eliminating NASA's management costs of the airfield and saving taxpayer dollars."
The announcement comes just two months after NASA's inspector general raised questions about Google executives possibly taking advantage of their company’s growing relationship with the space agency – flying personal jets and helicopters from the airfield.
An audit conducted by the inspector general revealed that seven jets and two helicopters owned by Google executives Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt had received inappropriate discounts on fuel that saved the three billionaires up to $5.3 million on flights dating back to 2009.