Google is looking upward for its next big project. The company announced that it has signed a 60-year lease with NASA for a 1,000-acre site that it plans to use for research and development in the areas of space exploration, robotics and other emerging technologies. It also plans to renovate three large hangars.
The site is part of the historic Moffett Field Naval Air Station and is a few miles from Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. Google executives already use the landing strip for its private jets under another lease arrangement, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“The Google team understands better than anyone else that in order to ‘organize the world’s information,’ space is going to be an increasingly important part of their business. It’s easier to move information around in space, and far easier to capture information from space,” said Leigh Drogen, CEO and co-founder of Estimize.com
Also looking upward is billionaire Elon Musk. He confirmed his company, SpaceX is “in the early stages of developing advanced micro-satellites operating in large formations,” which would deliver Internet access.
The Journal reported Musk is working with entrepreneur Greg Wyler, founder of start-up WorldVu Satellites. According to the newspaper, Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, while the largest satellite fleet aloft today delivering connectivity from space is one-tenth that size.
And there’s more, Facebook is also venturing outside of its earthly borders. Earlier this year, it announced work from its “Connectivity Lab” project. Facebook’s Lab is building drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the Internet to the world.
“There’s no bet bigger than space that could potentially have that type of massive payoff. This is just the beginning,” said Drogen.
While, talk of outer space may be exciting, Colin Gillis, director of research and senior tech analyst at BGC Partners has a more down to earth view. He says the real estate component shouldn’t be overlooked.
“While there are plenty of light-hearted comments one can make on the lease, such as Google executives wanting an airstrip nearby in case the robots they are building go awry, the reality is lack of real estate is a very real constraint to growth and this is a massive multipurpose facility a mere 15-minute bike ride from the Googleplex,” said Gillis.
“We look forward to rolling up our sleeves to restore the remarkable landmark Hangar One, which for years has been considered one of the most endangered historic sites in the United States,” David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president of real estate, said in a statement.
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