Mountain View Voice

Opinion - December 16, 2011

NASA needs to end hang-up on Hangar One

Since October, the three principals of Google, founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin and chairman Eric Schmidt, have had a secret offer in to NASA to pay for replacing the siding on Hangar One.

But so far the offer, which is estimated to be worth $33 million, has fallen on deaf ears back in Washington for reasons that have yet to be divulged. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and other Bay Area legislators are trying to get the space agency to accept this extremely generous offer, which is probably the only hope of preserving the magnificent structure that was built to house the Navy dirigible USS Macon in the early 1930s.

Topping out at 200 feet, Hangar One is in danger of being left derelict by the Navy, which is paying to remove the hangar's toxic siding but claims it has no funds to recover it.

That is why it is so important that there's an offer to pay the entire cost of replacing the siding. It was made officially by H211 LLC, the company formed by Page, Brin and Schmidt to manage the company's aircraft. The fleet includes two large passenger jets and several Gulfstream executive planes that are currently housed at another NASA hangar on the airfield. The executives are paying $1.3 million a year for this privilege, but if their offer is accepted, the LLC's planes would move to a permanent home in Hangar One. Apparently the deal would not bar other uses for the remaining space in the huge structure.

Time is of the essence for several reasons, including the need to able to use the $12 million in scaffolding currently deployed in the de-skinning project underway inside the hangar. In addition, with the rainy season upon us, much of the hangar's metal framing is exposed to the elements — which could cause lasting damage.

We see this offer as another sign that Google is eager to become a good citizen in Mountain View and the surrounding area. And although the size of the deal to complete the Hangar One siding project is the most significant so far, we also are encouraged by the company's gift of $1 million to local schools, and to build two bridges over Stevens Creek that will connect the Googleplex with a future office and potential housing site at Moffett Field.

In our view, these are all positive developments that solidly anchor the company to the city for many years to come. And speedy acceptance by NASA of the H211 LLC offer to replace the siding on Hangar One would be a major step in the right direction.

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