Why Google, Inc.'s Space Voyage Matters

On Sunday, Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) Project Tango lifted off for the International Space Station. Fool contributor Tim Beyers explains the implications in the following video.

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft is on a resupply mission to the ISS. Upon arrival, the the station's astronauts will retrofit a Project Tango smartphone to an onboard flying robot known as SPHERES, for "Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites."

The idea is to use Project Tango's multiple cameras and 3-D rendering technology to better guide the robot around the station. Currently, SPHERES is limited to a flying within a two-foot by two-foot area so as to not accidentally damage sensitive equipment, Computerworld reports.

Can investors really take pride in this sort of one-off? Absolutely. Google is a data company, after all. Project Tango makes collecting the most unusual information -- like how to navigate a robot around a spaceship -- that much easier. Now take that same idea and apply it to other explorations. What if Project Tango were to make it easier for robots to navigate deep-sea drilling operations? Or how about inspecting fracking sites? Think of a dangerous job that's suitable for a robot, and Project Tango's 3-D technology could make it more effective at performing the task.

Tim says investors need to think as expansively as founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin do when it comes to Google's mission to organize the world's information. For example, if you look back at their 2004 founder's letter, you'll find that "search" is mentioned just three times. "Information" shows up 10 times, as in this snippet:

"Our intense and enduring interest was to objectively help people find information efficiently. We also believed that searching and organizing all the world's information was an unusually important task that should be carried out by a company that is trustworthy and interested in the public good. We believe a well functioning society should have abundant, free and unbiased access to high quality information."

Notice the context. How the company collects bits and bytes isn't important; it's the act of collecting that matters. That's why we're seeing so many crazy bets: the search engine is just one tool for gathering information. Google needs more of these 'collectors,' including otherworldly gadgets such as Project Tango, to fulfill its stated purpose.

Conversely, were Google to limit itself to organizing and optimizing the cloud, powering a few devices, and scouring the Web for facts, it wouldn't be much more than a Microsoft clone. That Page and Brin refuse to be constrained suggests that the business, and the stock, won't be either.

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