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Google-NASA deal: Space agency's future looking brighter

With its reputation dingy, NASA gets a shiny makeover by inviting Google to move in.

The fortunes of NASA are a little less cloudy today, after Google and NASA announced an agreement that may eventually see Google take up to a million square feet of space at NASA Ames Research Center, and work with space scientists on a range of high-flown scientific and computer problems.

The move positions NASA as a forward-looking agency, happy to work closely with the hottest tech company in a generation and possibly turning Ames into a creative melting pot on the order of the famed Xerox PARC. G. Scott Hubbard, director of Ames, said:

“Our planned partnership presents an enormous range of potential benefits to the space program. Just a few examples are new sensors and materials from collaborations on bio-info-nano convergence, improved analysis of engineering problems as well as earth, life, and space science discoveries from supercomputing and data mining, and bringing entrepreneurs into the space program.”

 Despite the cool factor of the announcement, NASA is an agency in the midst of a radical realignment. NASA chief Michael Griffin told USA Today that the agency's entire shuttle and space station focus of the last two decades amounted a giant mistake. The future, he said, is to return men to the moon by 2018; President Bush has advocated a human mission to Mars.

Google is there. `We already have Google Earth,'' Google's Peter Norvig said. ``We'd like to have Google Mars and Google Moon.''