SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

For Sale: 160 acres of rolling hills in California that's perfect for a vineyard, a cattle ranch - or communication with outer space.

From member station KAZU, Krista Almanzan has the story.

KRISTA ALMANZAN, BYLINE: To understand how Silicon Valley businessman Jeffrey Bullis ended up owning the Jamesburg Earth Station, a former telecommunications center with a 10-story satellite dish, you have to think back to 2004. The real estate market was booming, and Bullis was visiting a friend in Carmel Valley on California's Central Coast, where homes can still sell for millions.

JEFFREY BULLIS: And I was like oh, I'd like to retire out here. What's available? What's a nice piece of property? And back then, he's like, well, nothing really good - he says - but the Earth Station's for sale. Why don't you go buy it?

ALMANZAN: So Bullis did - complete with a barn; small house; 21,000-square-foot, bomb-proof building; and that enormous satellite dish. For decades, the Jamesburg Earth Station was a relay point to broadcast countless historical events: Tiananmen Square, the Vietnam War, and…

NEIL ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for man...

ALMANZAN: ...the Apollo 11 moon landing.

ARMSTRONG: ...one giant leap for mankind.

ALMANZAN: Fiber optics replaced the Earth Station's function, so it closed in 2002. When Bullis bought it, he had to clean out a lot of obsolete equipment. As he walks through one of the now-cavernous, gymnasium-sized rooms, he says this has been his party house.

BULLIS: It's a great basketball room. And we have, you know - it's a shooting range, archery room. Kids come up; they have fun. That's what it's all about now.

BERT ARONSON: It would be the most unique sale I've ever made.

ALMANZAN: That's Bullis' real estate agent, Bert Aronson. The property is back on the market.

ARONSON: Hoping that somebody who wanted to have a - grow grapes out there might also want to store the finished product in the building - when they were finished.

ALMANZAN: As it turns out, the greatest interest in this property has been because of that satellite dish. NASA contractor Dennis Wingo is seriously looking at it. He's advising a team competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize. That's a $20 million award for the first privately funded team to get a rover to travel on the Moon.

DENNIS WINGO: We would control them from here. To me, that's way more fun that worrying about the past. As important as the past is, I kind of look for - towards the future.

ALMANZAN: At this point, Wingo hasn't made an offer so the property is still on the market. Asking price for the dish, the bunker and the land: $4.2 million.

For NPR News, I'm Krista Almanzan in Carmel Valley.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.