With dreams of an increased footprint in space, NASA is cutting back on its Earthly properties.
The agency said Monday it will lease its Moffett Field airbase in Silicon Valley to a shell company owned by Google (goog). The tech giant will pay $1.16 billion over the course of a 60-year lease, according to NASA.
Google plans to use the sprawling facility for research and testing in the areas of spaceships, robotics and other technologies.
Located on 1,000 acres in southern end of San Francisco Bay, the Moffett lease is expected to save NASA approximately $6.3 million annually in "maintenance and operation costs," the agency said. The airfield home to NASA Ames Research Center, including an airfield, a golf course, office space and several giant hangers that once housed blimps.
"As NASA expands its presence in space, we are making strides to reduce our footprint here on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement. “We want to invest taxpayer resources in scientific discovery, technology development and space exploration – not in maintaining infrastructure we no longer need."
"Moffett Field plays an important role in the Bay Area and is poised to continue to do so through this lease arrangement," he added.
In February, NASA had agreed to negotiate exclusively with Google to lease the property. The base is close to Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and its airfield is home to a fleet of private jets owned by Google's co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
Google had previously signed a deal to develop a new office complex on 42 acres at Moffett Field. But last year, the company halted those plans, possibly to await an agreement to manage the entire facility.
Under the latest deal, Planetary Ventures, Google's real estate arm, is expected to pump $200 million in improvements to the property, including refurbishing a hangar and creating a facility for the public to "explore the site's legacy" and learn about Silicon Valley.
“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, vice president of real estate and workplace services at Google Inc., said in a statement.
The news of NASA's lease to Google comes after a series of setbacks for space excursions and the industry over the last few weeks. On October 31, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two crashed during a flight test in the Mojave Desert, which resulted in the death of a pilot. Days earlier, an unmanned Orbital Sciences (orb) Antares rocket exploded six seconds after lift-off.