Sep 30th, 2005

Web search company Google Inc said on Wednesday it plans to partner with US space agency NASA on space research and build a new campus at the agency's research centre in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Google and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) said they plan to co-operate on research projects such as large-scale data management, nanotechnology, massively distributed computing and the entrepreneurial space industry.

Massively distributed computing aims to harness via the internet the power of thousands or millions of PCs while their volunteer owners are not using them, putting it to work on large scale research projects such as health or space exploration.

NASA Ames Centre Director G. Scott Hubbard said in a statement that the public-private partnership holds "an enormous range of potential benefits to the space programme."

The deal calls for Google to develop up to 1 million square feet of real estate within the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field, a former Naval air base that is surrounded by thousands of high-tech companies in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The total acreage is roughly double the size of its current headquarters in the adjoining town of Mountain View, California, where Google moved into the old offices of Silicon Graphics Inc just two years ago.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

At a news conference, Google Chairman and Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said that the leased government land would be used largely for office space to house company research and development. Some projects would be specific to Google and others could be joint research efforts with NASA, he said.

"Google and NASA share a common desire to bring a universe of information to people around the world," Schmidt said. "Imagine having a wide selection of images from the Apollo space mission at your fingertips whenever you want it," he said in offering one example of possible collaborations.

The seven-year-old company has been hiring employees at a rapid pace to meet explosive demand for its advertizing-supported search and other Internet businesses. Google currently has 4,100 employees worldwide.

Hubbard said examples of the sorts of projects envisioned under the partnership include new types of remote sensors, improved analysis of engineering problems and what he called "materials from collaborations on bio-info-nano convergence."

The NASA Ames director said other research would focus on "Earth, life and space science discoveries from supercomputing and data mining, and bringing entrepreneurs into the space programme."

The government research centre now known as NASA Ames was founded in 1939. Early on, it played a role in the design and testing of the P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning fighter planes during World War II. The facility later conducted research for the Apollo moon missions.

Local boosters said they are hoping to turn Moffett Field into a new hub of research and development activity for Silicon Valley, with the NASA-Google partnership as a magnet.