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Google joins forces with NASA to manage Moffett Airfield

A Google subsidiary has been selected as the "preferred" company to manage Moffett Federal Airfield in California and rehabilitate historic Hangar One.

The US General Services Administration (GSA) and NASA selected Planetary Ventures to put the stripped-down hangar to new use and eliminate the space program's management costs.

Google and Planetary Ventures have other motives beyond helping out NASA, though. Hangar One, which GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini called "the landmark of Silicon Valley well before the rise of today's tech titans," is already home to a fleet of private jets, including those owned by Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt.

Since 2007, Google had a contract to rent space at Moffett Airfield, as well as secure fuel at a cheaper price than other private jet owners. But NASA declined to renew the agreement last fall.

NASA started accepting bids for the Moffett lease in May 2013 and Planetary Ventures was selected as the "preferred lessee," NASA said this week. Now, NASA and Planetary Ventures have to negotiate specific terms of the Hangar One and the Moffett Federal Airfield lease before it's a done deal.

"At NASA we're not only committed to exploring our solar system, but also making sure we're spending tax dollars wisely," administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "That's why we've been so aggressive at making surplus or under-utilised property available to the private sector or other government partners."

The agreement, he said, will allow NASA to focus resources on core missions, while still protecting the federal need to use Moffett Field as a limited-use airfield.

It also requires Planetary Ventures to re-skin and protect Hangar One as well as rehabilitate Hangars 2 and 3, upgrade the existing golf course, and create a public use/educational facility.

"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," Tangherlini said. "NASA's partnership with the private sector will allow the agency to restore this treasure for more efficient use."

"This decision ... represents a tremendously effective partnership between NASA and our sister agency GSA, and we're grateful for their leadership in this endeavor," Bolden said.

Last month, NASA announced that it plans to put men on the moon by 2030.