An air and space museum for Hangar One?

Preservationists organize 'Smithsonian West' campaign

Preservationists who have been fighting to save Moffett Field's historic Hangar One are now organizing an effort to use the massive building for a major West Coast satellite of the Smithsonian.

Environmentalist Lenny Siegel, pilot Steve Williams and County Airports director Carl Honaker are among the Save Hangar One Committee leaders on the board of the newly formed Air and Space West Foundation. The three are leaders of a group that has been fighting to save Hangar One as the Navy moves to strip the hangar down to a bare frame in order to remove contamination from the structure by next year.

The group is thinking farther into Hangar One's future. Hopes are that with enough interest and financial backing from donors, Hangar One could be home to a major earth, air and space museum -- possibly as one of numerous satellite museums that operate under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institute in the United States.

Early talks with the Smithsonian about turning Hangar One into a major West Coast museum have been promising, said Larry Ellis, the group's CEO and a Silicon Valley business development manager and longtime Hangar One preservationist. The caveat is that the Smithsonian cannot pay for the venture -- the group must raise all of the money for the museum itself, which is not unusual for Smithsonian satellite museums, Ellis said.

"They said "become a viable entity and finish the build-out and you'd have something," Ellis said.

Ellis said that the Smithsonian's top two donors are both California residents, yet the Smithsonian has no museum in California and no real presence on the West Coast. That means the Smithsonian's numerous traveling exhibits are never seen by most West Coast residents.

"The Bay Area is the No. 1 tourist destination in the United States," Ellis said. "We in Silicon Valley don't benefit from that. If this occurs and we put a Smithsonian museum in the hangar, there's a destination in the valley for tourists that exists between the city of San Francisco and Monterey."

While there's a long way to go before plans can be made for such a museum, there are infinite possibilities for the massive building, which is 14 stories tall and has a floor the size of 10 football fields. Possibilities include a 14-story-tall screen on one of the hangar's walls on which school kids could watch space shuttle launches, Ellis said. The eight-man cranes that run along the ceiling could also provide a unique view for museum visitors for exhibits such as airplanes, space craft, even birds -- earth science exhibits are part of the plan.

Ellis said the content of the museum will probably be decided by NASA, the Smithsonian and major donors.

Putting an air and space museum in the hangar is not a new idea. In fact, there's been talk about it for over a decade. "There's always been this notion that there's going to be some sort of museum in the hangar," Ellis said.

A major obstacle in the museum's path was removed in 2002 when it was part of plans in the environmental impact statement for the NASA Research Park at Ames. That means there are existing "entitlements" for a major museum in Hangar One, so there's little red tape in the way of the museum, which will save the effort $2 million and lots of headaches, Ellis said.

Ellis said the would be museum's biggest neighbors, NASA Ames Research Center and University Associates, have expressed some support for the proposal. University Associates hopes to build a major Silicon Valley campus for the University of California and other colleges in a planned redevelopment of the NASA Research Park. Both entities could provide the expertise for museum exhibits, which would also help meet their own goals of educating the public. "They are both very positive," about the museum proposal, Ellis said of NASA Ames and University Associates.

NASA Ames, however, has also expressed interest in using Hangar One for an airship research program, but the idea has yet to pan out, Ellis said. Meanwhile, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo recently put some pressure on Ames, which owns the hangar, to decide on its re-use so she can appropriate funding to help restore the structure.

Ellis says that in about a month the group will be able to accept donations. Updates on the foundation's fundraising efforts can be found on its website:

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3 people like this
Posted by PHM
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I love it! Now that someone thought of this plan, it's so obviously right.

3 people like this
Posted by you people sicken me
a resident of another community
on Jul 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm

FFS. All of this headache over some over-grown tent cancery factory.

3 people like this
Posted by Marti
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm

This is a great plan... I guess "people sicken me" does not know or care about the history. There is much history that would be lost if the hanger was distroyed... PHM is corect, "It's so obviously right!" I am old enough to know the history of the hanger and I think it would be terrible to loose all of the history, stories and the hanger itself. West Coast Air and Space museum would be perfect. Thanks to Siegel, pilot Williams and County Airports director l Honaker and the Save Hanger One committee.

3 people like this
Posted by Mr. Big
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 22, 2010 at 5:07 pm

It's a fantastic idea!

And, would be another feather in our cap for our great city!

I can see it now: The Smithsonian West Coast Earth, Air and Space Museum sitting next the new University of California at Mountain View (UCMV) campus and connected to the new High Speed Rail Station by SkyTran electric personal rapid transit vehicles along with free Google Fiber ultra high speed internet access for all residents/businesses.

This vision of the very near and possible future would help propel Mountain View into the 21st Century as the next great city in California.

3 people like this
Posted by Dave Chapman
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm

This is the best idea I have seen in a while.

-Dave Chapman

3 people like this
Posted by Earth Air Space Educational Foundation
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Still diligently pursing, follow us at
Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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