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Google's Planetary Ventures takes control of NASA's Moffett Federal Airfield on lease

04 April 2015

A subsidiary of internet search firm Google this week formally took control of Moffett Federal Airfield, where Google's founders have been landing their private jets for years, along with the iconic Hangar One, under a 60-year lease deal with NASA.

The development comes after regulators approved a final set of environmental reviews for the lease, clearing the company's plans for the 1,000-acre space.

Starting Wednesday, 1 April, Google shell company Planetary Ventures had clearance to move in and start making modifications to the property, NASA Ames Research Center associate director Deborah Feng said in an email. The company already had approval to start electrical work and installation of construction trailers, but all future activities would be required to follow permitting and historic preservation requirements, she noted.

The lease with NASA officials was signed by Planetary Ventures in February, eliminating two competing bids. At the same time, the company proposed using Hangars One, Two and Three for "research, testing, assembly and development" of technology related to space, aviation, rovers and robotics.

According to Google spokeswoman Meghan Casserly the Planetary Ventures team was assessing options and making plans and timelines for the future, but what the company specifically intended to do with the space could not be shared.

A number of planned projects had been announced already and members of the nonprofit Earth, Air & Space Educational Foundation indicated plans to open a museum and educational centre.

Google would renovate Moffett's three hangars for use as research laboratories for the testing and assembly of robots, space rovers and other emerging technologies and Hangar Two, was already in use for testing Google's hi-altitude internet balloons.

Google had declined to discuss its plans for the airfield ahead of Wednesday's takeover, but the $1.16 billion lease with NASA last year had been welcomed as a lifesaver for the property.

As per the plans Google submitted to the federal government to win the lease, the company was ''committed to re-siding and rehabilitating Hangar One within two years of receipt of permits, and rehabilitating Hangars Two and Three,'' along with the airfield and an old military golf course.

According to Feng, the hangars were in disrepair and NASA had not maintained them for a couple decades.

She said NASA was very excited things were going to get started on the 1,000 acres. She added it was an immediate relief for a piece of property that was significant to the South Bay.

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