Google takes the next step into space exploration

The tech giant has leased an airfield from Nasa as the space agency tries to reduce its footprint on earth

Hanger One
(Image credit: Nasa)

Google has agreed to lease a large airfield from Nasa to research and develop space exploration technologies.

Planetary Ventures, an offshoot of Google, has agreed to the 60-year lease of Moffett Airfield, located near the technology giant's Silicon Valley headquarters. The site had previously been used by Google executives as a landing and storage area for their private jets, but its use is now being extended.

Google has yet to confirm it plans for the premises, but Nasa issued a statement saying that the site will be used for "research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies".

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The 60-year lease is expected to provide the space agency with at least $1.16bn and will save them $6.3m a year in operating costs. Google has also committed to spending at least $200m on upgrading the facilities, including Hanger One, a gigantic and iconic Silicon Valley landmark (above).

Nasa says the sale is part of its mission to reduce costs and get rid of surplus property. "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."

Little is known about the company Planetary Ventures, which has previously been described as a shell organisation for real estate deals, but the BBC suggests that "the name hints at something more".

Google has not officially announced any plans to venture in to space, but the company's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have a widely reported interest in space and aviation.

The company has offered a $20m prize to any private mission that is able to "land a robot on the moon, travel 500 meters and send back images," before the end of 2015, according to the Financial Times.

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