Google to lease Moffett Airfield from NASA to use as home for its advanced research facilities

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Google has been using NASA’s Moffett Airfield as a home and launch pad for its private jets for several years now, but today, the company announced that it has singed a deal with NASA in which it will lease the airfield for the next 60 years. Google, via its real estate organization Planetary Ventures, will contribute $1.16 billion to the facilities over the lease, reducing NASA’s operation costs by $6.3 million annually.

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NASA launching Google’s Project Tango smartphones into space on July 11th

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Robots aboard the International Space Station will soon be equipped with depth sensing smartphones courtesy of Google. The space-ready handsets will be from the search giant’s Project Tango initiative that uses 3D image tracking technology to map their surroundings. The phones with hitch a ride on a cargo spacecraft scheduled to launch on July 11th and will be the eyes and ears of NASA’s Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES).

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First renders of 1.1M square foot ‘Bay View’ Google-plex designed with architecture firm NBBJ

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Vanity Fair today posts the first renderings of Google’s first ‘from scratch’  building dubbed Bay View which it is building on land it leased from NASA in 2008 for 40 years and which overlooks San Francisco Bay.  The project is designed by Architecture firm NBBJ.

The more you look at the complex, however, the more intriguing it is. The new campus, which the company is calling Bay View, consists of nine roughly similar structures, most of which will be four stories high, and all of which are shaped like rectangles that have been bent in the middle. The bent rectangles are arranged to form large and small courtyards, and several of the buildings have green roofs. All of the structures are connected by bridges, one of which will bring people directly to one of the green roofs that has been done up with an outdoor café and gathering space. And cars, the bane of almost every suburban office complex, including the Googleplex, are hidden away.

By comparison, Apple’s new ‘Spaceship Campus’ building is about 2.5 times as big.

The project was actually announced in 2011 but the press release no longer lives on the company website. From the *ahem* Google  cache:

We are thrilled to announce that NBBJ has been selected to design a new 1.1 million square foot facility for Google in Mountain View, California. The scope of work includes integrated new construction, interiors and workplace design. This will be Google’s first build-to-suit new construction project. Both Google and NBBJ have high expectations for sustainability and healthy, creative work environments. Together, we will explore innovative materials and processes for construction.

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A look at how Google builds accurate maps with ‘Ground Truth’ data

Google’s map offerings build in the human intelligence on the front end, and that’s what allows its computers to tell you the best route from San Francisco to Boston.

In an exclusive story by the Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal, Google for the first time gives us a look at “Ground Truth”. It is a project described by Madrigal as a secretive, complex internal map that contains data, such as “no-left-turns and freeway on-ramps, speed limits and traffic conditions,” necessary to help users navigate through Google Maps:

I was slated to meet with Gupta and the engineering ringleader on his team, former NASA engineer Michael Weiss-Malik, who’d spent his 20 percent time working on Google Mars, and Nick Volmar, an “operator” who actually massages map data. 

“So you want to make a map,” Weiss-Malik tells me as we sit down in front of a massive monitor. “There are a couple of steps. You acquire data through partners. You do a bunch of engineering on that data to get it into the right format and conflate it with other sources of data, and then you do a bunch of operations, which is what this tool is about, to hand massage the data. And out the other end pops something that is higher quality than the sum of its parts.”

Describing Ground Truth to be an elaborate internal Map Maker of sorts, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is just how much human input goes into making the Google Maps experience accurate. In the story, Madrigal noted the Ground Truth Geo team aims to address most of the fixable problems reported by users (thousands daily) within minutes: Read more

Explore NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with Google’s largest special collection of Street View imagery


As a special celebration for the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Google announced today that it added a new collection of Street View imagery that allows users to explore the area through 6,000 panoramic views of the complex. To accomplish the task, Google teamed with NASA to capture the special set of imagery. It will allow you to explore outside the facility and areas like the “top of the enormous launch pad.” Some of the locations you can now explore in Street View include the space shuttle launch pad, Launch Firing Room #4, Vehicle Assembly Building (taller than the Statue of Liberty), and the space shuttle’s main engines.

For fifty years, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been the launch point for a generation of space technology and exploration. Countless enthusiasts (including this one) grew up longing to see a space shuttle up close and walk in the paths of astronauts. Today, a collaboration between NASA and Street View is enabling people around the world to take a trip to the doorway to outer space, and see Kennedy as it transitions into a multipurpose launch complex for the next 50 years of space innovation… We’d like to thank NASA for making this project possible and giving all of us the chance to digitally walk in the shoes of all of the pioneering astronauts, scientists, engineers and technicians that made our space dreams possible.

If you want to see Google’s largest special collection of Street View imagery for the NASA Kennedy Space Center, go to maps.google.com/nasa now.
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Google founders want to restore NASA hanger to hold their airplanes

The founders of Google — Larry Page, and Sergey Brin — are offering NASA $33 million to restore their Hangar One. Hangar One was once the building that housed NASA planes, and is currently in really bad shape and needs to be restored to protect the environment. How nice of Google, but there’s a catch. Mercury News reports:

Without a covering, the hangar’s frame and foundation will be exposed to the elements. That’s a problem because there are toxic materials in the soil underneath the hangar that could leach out because of rain exposure, Siegel said. Additionally, the Navy has set up some $12 million worth of scaffolding to remove the hangar’s skin. If supporters are able to put a new covering on the hangar right after that process ends, that scaffolding can be left in place. If not, it will have to be removed and then replaced later at a cost of some $1 million to $2 million more, Siegel said.

The Google founders want to use 2/3 of the NASA hangar to house their 11 jets, one of which is currently being sold. The deal hasn’t yet gone through, and still needs approval from necessary NASA/Navy boards. If approved, the restoration project will begin next summer.  Read more

Timely: NASA releases Android app

As you know, Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for lift-off from Kennedy Space Center today, July 8, at 11:26am Eastern (carrying two modified iPhone 4s with it). This will be a historic launch marking the 135th and final mission of the Space Shuttle fleet. Time to refresh your astronomy knowledge, don’t you think. Just in time, NASA’s official app which has been downloaded five million times on iPhone and iPad is now available on Android Market.

The 4MB download works with Android 2.1 onwards. It’s your window to an enormous collection of NASA content that spawns hires space imagery, on-demand videos, live streaming video from NASA Television, mission information, feature stories and breaking news. It also lets you locate sighting opportunities for the International Space Station and track the current positions of spacecraft currently orbiting Earth. More features and screenies after the break.

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