An ambitious plan for a museum and collaborative educational space at Moffett Field is taking shape, thanks to Google's lease deal with NASA for Hangar One and the Moffett Federal Airfields property. On Tuesday, the nonprofit Earth, Air & Space Educational Foundation announced that it is receiving financial support from Google to create an Earth, Air & Space Collaboratory at Moffett Field.
NASA's lease with Google subsidiary Planetary Ventures was signed Monday, months after the announcement that Google would be awarded the lease and would take over the running of roughly 1,000 acres of Moffett Field, including Hangars One, Two and Three, an airfield flight operations building, two runways and a private golf course. Along with a requirement to restore and rehabilitate the historic hangars, the lease called for the creation of "an educational facility where the public can explore the site's legacy and the role of technology in the history of Silicon Valley."
The Earth, Air & Space Educational Foundation, largely made up of members of the Save Hangar One Committee and the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board, has been working since 2010 to muster support for the creation of a kind of "Smithsonian West" at Moffett.
The exact amount of Google's funding can't be disclosed, at Google's behest, said foundation spokesman Matthew Schmidt. He said that Google's contribution, combined with private donations, make up $500,000 in seed money for the foundation to flesh out its plans for what he described as a world-class educational, conference, exhibition and museum space.
Google will also provide a building or buildings, although it's still up in the air as to whether it will be housed in new or existing buildings at Moffett, Schmidt said. Google's lease includes the potential to build up to 90,000 square feet of new structures, he said.
The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., and the Exploratorium and California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco provide inspiration for the future facility, Schmidt said. There will be exhibits detailing the history of Moffett Field and NASA Ames, as well as the origins of Silicon Valley, he said.
There will be classrooms and laboratory space designed to attract students and educators from the whole Bay Area, as well as public events and meeting space. The focus will be on STE(A)M subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and "Engineering Grand Challenges," big problems facing the planet in the 21st century, such as clean air, clean water and clean energy, said Schmidt. "I think it's one of the things that attracted Google. They have their X labs, and are involved in many ways in solving tough problems," he said.
"It's nice to have a big goal, right? It plays to the Bay Area's strengths in a lot of ways," said Schmidt.
At this early stage, there are still a lot of questions that remain to be answered, including how much it ultimately will cost and when it might be open to the public. Schmidt said the foundation will kick off its fundraising efforts in earnest now that the lease deal is signed. He said the final cost will be "in the tens of millions of dollars," but without more details on exactly where it will be housed, it's impossible to say more.
The foundation expects to start launching some educational or speaking programs by the end of 2015, he said. More details of plans for the Earth, Air & Space Collaboratory are at the foundation's website earthairspace.org.
"It's exciting to be able to tell this story. It all started with wanting to preserve Hangar One and the surrounding area of Moffett Field and find a future use for it," Schmidt said.
In 2003, the Navy had sought to tear down the landmark structure because of toxic lead, asbestos and PCBs in its frame paint and siding. Stripped of its siding, Hangar One is now a massive skeleton in need of a restoration job expected to cost more than $40 million.
Besides paying to restore Hangar One, the lease is estimated to save NASA approximately $6.3 million annually in maintenance and operation costs, and provide $1.16 billion in rent over the initial 60-year lease term, according to NASA spokeswoman Karen Nothon.