Hangar One's fate: NASA Inspector General won't back down


Following the backlash over a June 2011 report pushing for the disposal of historic Hangar One and Moffett Federal Airfield, the NASA Inspector General has issued another report igniting opposition from Hangar One preservationists.

The Aug. 9 audit calls for more transparency in the space agency's leasing practices, and scrutinizes NASA Ames' leases with Airship Ventures, Singularity University, Google and H211 LLC, which operates a fleet of private planes out of NASA-controlled Moffett Field for the founders of Google. The report will make it more difficult to find someone to restore and lease Hangar One, preservationists say, because it calls on NASA to only lease property that has a "current or future mission" for NASA and dispose of properties that do not, such as Hangar One.

"Your office and NASA Headquarters, with blinders firmly on, chose again to ignore what is most important to the communities and citizens of the Bay Area: preserving and restoring a usable Hangar One as a centerpiece for any future use of Moffett Field," writes Lenny Siegel and William Berry, members of the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board.

"This objective is not merely a local concern: In May 2012 the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation reiterated, in a letter to the NASA Administrator, 'The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has long supported the reuse of Hangar One at Moffett Field as a way to ensure that the building survives to convey an important part of our history to future generations.'"

In response to the protest letter, NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin pointed to the space agency's aging facilities which require maintenance costing "in excess of $2.5 billion."

"Congress specifically directed the Agency -- in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 -- to reduce its real property footprint to fit current and future missions and expected funding levels," Martin writes in a Sept. 4 letter. "Moreover, given the anticipated funding constraints for all Federal agencies in the years ahead, prudent decisions regarding the disposition of unneeded real property are imperative."

Siegel, an expert on environmental cleanup, said that transferring ownership of Hangar One could take five years or more because it sits on top of a Superfund cleanup site.

"Even in the best of times, it is difficult and slow to transfer to Superfund contaminated property from federal ownership," Siegel said. "That can't really be done in a timely fashion, thus threatening the hangar with deterioration."

The U.S. Navy recently finished stripping the 200-foot-tall hangar of siding laced with PCBs, lead and asbestos in an environmental cleanup. The metal skeleton was coated with paint and left to stand that way indefinitely, despite calls from local government leaders to replace the siding right away to protect the structure. At one point NASA was ordered by the White House to take on the responsibility of restoring the structure of from the Navy, but a NASA funding request failed to gain the necessary votes in Congress.

The Inspector general's position, and opposition from NASA headquarters, shot down an offer from the founders of Google to pay the cost of restoring Hangar One in exchange for a long-term lease for their storing their private planes there. Instead, NASA chief Charles Bolden said NASA would begin working with the General Services Administration to dispose of Hangar One and the Moffett airfield, which NASA has struggled to find funding to operate.

"As stated in the Administrator's April 2012 letter to a member of Congress, because NASA had no mission use for Hangar One or the other Moffett Field property (the airfield) it would not be consistent with Federal law for the Agency to lease the property to H211," the Aug. 9 audit states. "The Administrator's action nevertheless sparked significant opposition from members of Congress, local residents, and the media."

"We continue to be confounded and disappointed by the unwillingness of NASA's leadership, as characterized and supported by your report, to recognize its obligation to see that such an important property as Hangar One is preserved in a timely manner," write Berry and Siegel in their letter.

Berry and Siegel say the Inspector General is ignoring historical preservation and environmental cleanup obligations the federal government has in dealing with Hangar One. They also bring up the possibility of an earth, air and space museum in the hangar, which might not be part of part of NASA's mission, but would certainly fit the space agency's goal of educating the public. Hangar One preservationists have been pushing for such a place, and have set up a website at

"The important thing about the H211 proposal is it tied the future of the hangar to the future of the airfield," Siegel said. "The proposed Earth Air and Space Center may or may not require use of the airfield in the long run."

"Its my personal belief that it is time to do another study of the future of Moffett Field," Siegel said, recalling the citizens advisory committee formed in 1997 after the Navy left Moffett. "I hate to think it, but that's like 15 years ago. It's time to do such a study again."

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3 people like this
Posted by Tina
a resident of Jackson Park
on Sep 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Really? Sounds like a no-brainer... NASA is supposed to "reduce its footprint" to usable property. Hangar One is not needed for NASA purposes. Google has offered to lease it & fix it. Why not just sell it and the excess property to Google with the request that they set up some sort of museum that the preservationists want to see & they can clean up the rest of the place (maybe put some commercial or housing on it) and make it a nice-looking adjunct to our fair city & not the blighted eyesore that it has been for the past 20 years. Plus, if they get housing on that side of the freeway, it will reduce a lot of cross-freeway traffic at Rengstorff & Shoreline. C'mon people, why can't we get this done before Google gives up & goes somewhere else?

3 people like this
Posted by Paul Asmus
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

The fact of the matter is that our nonprofit organization was one of those that was treated 'unfairly' by NASA at Moffett. Since the IG report was released, the Office of Inspector General at NASA has informed us the matter of our mistreatment is still under review.

Concerning the fate of Hangar One, the record will show we tried to work with NASA and H211, LLC to create a partnership in the reuse of Hangar One. Being a humanitarian and disaster airlift service in support of the US Government, we clearly meet the "future use" criteria required by NASA for potential users of this Hangar. Both Rep. Ana Eshoo and Major General David Baldwin the California Adjutant General have written to NASA explaining the importance of Moffett in emergency response operations and Rep. Eshoo confirms in her letter to NASA and the White House that FEMA and NASA are "partners" in this regard. We are still open to working with NASA and others like H211 to save Hangar One.

Paul D. Asmus
Humanitarian Air Logistics
Palo Alto, CA

3 people like this
Posted by TeamSaveIt
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Sep 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm

From the NASA website:

"NASA's vision: To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."

How can they benefit anyone if they keep tearing down and destroying all the great things mankind has done and learned?

3 people like this
Posted by starguy
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Sep 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Unless the Navy (or even NASA!) is planning on reconstituting the airship fleet, then Hangar One needs to be torn down.

Enough is enough.

3 people like this
Posted by MCL
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2012 at 11:24 am

Actually, starguy, NASA *is* building an airship fleet, and it could be most effectively be housed at Moffett Field. There are at least three scientific / military airship projects underway at NASA Ames which will need hangars for some very large airships. Google has offered to pay for the restoration of hangar one (tens of $millions) in exchange for some of the space inside and some use of the runways.

What is the hold-up?

It is this: The head of NASA - administrator, Charles Bolden - is engaged in a war with NASA Ames and the Northern California congressional delegation. The kerfuffle over hangar one is but one battle in that war. It will end only with Bolden's resignation or the dismantling and closure of NASA Ames.

Bolden is one of the most indecisive, ineffectual and irresponsible "leaders" NASA has ever had (and it has had some really bad ones). While he attempts to stop private funding of both research and historical restoration at Ames (of NASA's most innovative and cost-effective campus) his whole agency is being dismantled.

Irreplaceable U.S. infrastructure, expertise and leadership in aerospace is being shed (torn down, sold to real estate developers, laid off, etc). Hangar is an example - where NASA, local (and global) business, and the public are effectively fighting back.

Let's see, what do we want?..... restore a uniquely appropriate facility that a private company has agreed to clean up and pay for, which NASA can then use to build and house a 21st century fleet of "green" heavy-lift airship prototypes that will revolutionize cargo transport and eliminate the need for roads in roadless areas? Or allow the skeleton of Hanger One to rust in place above its underground toxic plume while the GSA tries to sell the land to real estate developers who have abandoned half a dozen projects within a few miles already?

3 people like this
Posted by Mr. Worldallwrong
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Sep 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Use recycled beer cans to skin it with, how many cans to skin a hanger??

3 people like this
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm

How about this.. I lost my wallet last week. I need to replace my ID.

The next appointment I can get at the DMV is September 24th. Oh yeah, three solid weeks. Of course I can just walk in and wait with the masses. Which I most likely will since I don't want to wait three weeks.. but that's just a small example of our government at work.

And you all are surprised when they can't figure out if/how to take a private company up on an offer to pay for something?

By the time they figure this out the skeleton of hangar one will be a pile of rust sitting on the ground.

Which I'm fine with. NASA isn't going to build any magic fleet of blimps to revolutionize cargo transport. There is already an efficient method for moving cargo in areas without roads. It's called a train.

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Trains are a great way to move around goods, but we have built are whole land based transport system on trucks, trucks are great but they sit in traffic. Traffic eats up time, money and fuel. We could keep up with some other ideas or just build more roads then wait more traffic will come.

Hanger One could have a tenant, someone who wants to pay for a lease and fix it up, I don't see what is wrong with this. You have empty space out there, why not get people to lease or rent space, you could have small tech firms, a blimp that ferries passengers. What we have this already, guess we would rather have something out there that the Fed will decide for us. Why not a prison, a giant homeless center or a casino.

3 people like this
Posted by Aero-Swiss
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 21, 2012 at 2:37 am

I believe NASA is uncomfortable in allowing Google to 'acquire' yet more substance on their way to world 'ownership' due to their influence and wealth. Ordinary (assets below £100m) people are unable to see this global perspective and I for one am grateful to NASA for maintaining their watchful eye over the masses and not bending to the pressure of unknowing people who are not able to see the BIG picture due to the absence of the £100m+ view 'spectacles'. I say go elsewhere Google so as they do not inherit all the history contained in that location which will make them stronger.

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

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