Google announced late Wednesday it had signed a memorandum of understanding with NASA that would allow it to collaborate on research projects with the space agency, as well as build a new one million square foot office complex at the NASA Ames Research Center. The new complex would not be far from its current Mountain View, Calif. headquarters, dubbed the “Googleplex.”
The agreement details plans to collaborate on large-scale data management, massively distributed computing, bio-info-nano convergence, and entrepreneurial space industry issues. “Google and NASA share a common desire to bring a universe of information to people around the world,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. According to Google, the government land it gets out of the deal would largely be used for research and development functions. Schmidt says projects worked on at the location would not all be necessarily NASA-related.
In any case, the joining of NASA and Google has turned heads and sparked chatter. Some question what such a move contributes to Google’s core business of search and advertising. Others see it as beneficial for both parties.
“Historically, there has been a strong relationship between technology companies and government agencies, although ties have been less strong during the last 10 years or so,” Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox explained to BetaNews. “It wasn’t so long ago that cooperative R&D projects benefited government and private sector.”
Google also could be looking well into the future. NASA has been exploring ways to extend the Internet out into space, and Google may be attempting to ensure it stakes a claim while the program is still in the early stages of development.
Also, both parties have been doing work in distributed computing. Google could benefit in the private sector from NASA’s research, and possibly have a competitive advantage in the nascent industry currently dominated by IBM and Sun Microsystems.
“Our planned partnership presents an enormous range of potential benefits to the space program,” NASA Ames Center Director G. Scott Hubbard said in a statment. “While our joint efforts will benefit both organizations, the real winner will be the American public.”