Google launches restoration of Depression-era dirigible hangar in Silicon Valley

Planetary Ventures unit to fully restore 200-foot-tall Hangar One in Mountain View for advanced tech research

San Francisco /
May.May 05, 2022 11:19 AM
Google ceo Sundar Pichai with Hangar One, NASA Ames Research Center and Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View (Getty, Wikipedia)
Google ceo Sundar Pichai with Hangar One, NASA Ames Research Center and Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View (Getty, Wikipedia)

Google will soon restore the 200-foot-high Hangar One, a Silicon Valley landmark dating back to the age of dirigibles during the Great Depression.

Google’s Planetary Ventures unit will lead the restoration of the massive hangar at the NASA Ames Research Center and Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

A rebirth of Hangar One, big enough to fit several football fields, will launch a new era of space, aviation and tech research. The makeover that begins this week follows years of toxic materials cleanup at the site.

“I’m thrilled that the restoration of Hangar One will finally begin on May 5,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat whose district encompasses Mountain View, in an email to the newspaper. “Our community has worked for years to save this historic landmark that defines the landscape of the South Bay region and Silicon Valley.”

Google entered a $1.6 billion, 60-year lease with NASA in 2015 to take over the 1,000-acre Moffett Field site, with plans to renovate its three airship hangars as laboratories for developing robots, rovers, drones, internet-carrying balloons and other advanced technology. Its Planetary Ventures would lead the effort.

The removal of the toxic materials took years under work supervised by the U.S. Navy.
The U.S. Navy completed Hangar One in 1933 to serve as home to the dirigible U.S.S. Macon. By 1950, Moffett Field had become the largest naval air transport base on the West Coast.

In the 1980s the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed the site on the National Priority List for sites of known releases of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. It was closed as an active military base in 1991 and transferred to NASA.

After the 2003 discovery that toxins were leaching from panels covering the hangar, the depression-era structure remained in limbo for nearly a decade, according to the newspaper.

Although NASA took over the site in 1994, the federal government deemed the Navy responsible for cleaning it up. In 2011, the Navy spent four months removing the structure’s outside panels, leaving NASA Ames responsible for reskinning the structure.
A full Google restoration of the hangar is expected to take at least five years. More than a decade ago, NASA pegged the cost at $32.8 million.

“The Hangar was originally built during the Great Depression and provided hundreds of much-needed jobs,” Eshoo said. “It has been adjacent to NASA Ames from the start and was the training grounds and aircraft hangar during World War II.

“This American icon is also one of the largest freestanding structures in the country.”

In 2019, Google moved into a 450,000-square-foot hangar in Playa Vista known as Google Spruce Goose, which once housed Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose airplane during the 1940s. This month, it added 53,000-square-feet of office space across the street, in a tech zone known as Silicon Beach.

[San Jose Mercury News] – Dana Bartholomew





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