What Really Happens at Area 51?
Area 51 sign. Source: (gizmodo.com)
A popular topic among science fiction enthusiasts and conspiracy theorist is Area 51. Frequently connected with the 1947 incident during which a UFO allegedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, it is thought to be a secret facility where the government experiments on extraterrestrials and flying saucers. While the UFO landing has been written off as a weather balloon, the military facility commonly known as Area 51 does actually exist; however, the unidentified flying objects experimented on there were of a more terrestrial nature.
Due to the rumors of alien activity at Area 51, the adjacent highway has been named “The Extraterrestrial Highway” and the towns nearby have capitalized on the rumors with a plethora of alien-themed merchandise for tourists to buy. There’s even an alien-themed hotel called Little A’Le’Inn. Over the years, the military facility has been called by many names, including “Site II” and “The Ranch.” It is unknown how or why it became known as “Area 51.” In any case, the name seems to have stuck and has even led to a nearby minor league baseball being called the 51s.
Area 51 is a United States Air Force military installation located in the Nevada desert near Groom Lake. The fact that it appears on satellite images but not on any public U.S. government maps (though it can now be found on Google Maps) has fueled the mystery surrounding it. Not only has it been associated with the 1947 Roswell incident and other alleged alien encounters, but it has also been connected to the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was a hoax. Believers of this theory believe the moon landing to have been filmed in the Nevada desert, possibly at Area 51.
For decades, the government refused to admit that Area 51 even existed and the satellite images were censored. This obvious secrecy regarding the nature of the facility left many people eager to believe the stories of men like Robert Lazar who came forward in 1989, claiming to have been employed by the government to work on extraterrestrial technology at Area 51. He even claimed to have seen photos from alien autopsies.
On June 25, 2013, the government finally shed some light on their operations at Area 51. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and a request submitted in 2005 by Jeffrey T. Richelson of the George Washington University National Security Archive, the CIA approved the declassification of documents related to the governments use of the facility in the 1950s and 1960s. According to these documents, Area 51 was used for a program known as OXCART during which the government tested U2 spy planes. Among the aircraft tested there were the SR-71 Blackbird, the Archangel-12, and the F-117 Nighthawk. The government believes it was the test flights of these aircraft which were responsible for the UFO sightings in the area.
Area 51 is still an active military installation administered by Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. However, the declassified documents only revealed what the facility was used for in the past. It is unknown what type of research is currently being conducted there. What is known is that the area is not accessible to the public and is under 24-hour surveillance. It is said to be protected by guards carrying M16s and signs warning that trespassers will be met with fines, jail time, or deadly force.
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