Area 51 has captivated American imagination for decades, prompting questions about what the U.S. government does at the secretive facility. Now, new revelations have pulled away the veil of secrecy, allowing the public to enjoy an unprecedented look at the history of one of the world's most enigmatic locations.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A new article published by space.com details some of the new information about Area 51, including an incident in which it was photographed, perhaps inadvertently, by astronauts during a 1974 Skylab mission. That article is based on documents declassified by the CIA.
Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, was only publicly acknowledged by the CIA in July of this year. By that time it had already become the nation's worst-kept secret. Yet the not-so-secret base did a pretty good job covering up its actual day-to-day operations which led to wild conspiracy theories and rumors about what actually happened there.
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For the public imagination, Area 51 was an ultra-secret facility that tested alien technology from recovered UFOs. Some stories even claimed alien bodies, or live aliens were housed there and interacted with government agents. Area 51 became a staple of science fiction.
Adding to the rumors was the persistent, even obstinate government secrecy. From official denials to dire warning signs posted around the perimeter warning, "use of lethal force authorized," the government did little to dispel the rumors of UFOs and alien visitors.
The government secrecy was so insistent that when a 1974 Skylab mission photographed the area from space, there was a high-level discussion between CIA and security officials and NASA as to whether the photograph should be released to the public. Eventually, the photograph was quietly placed in a public archive where it sat forgotten for decades.
There was a reason for the extreme government secrecy. What the Air Force and CIA were actually up to warranted tight security. As early as the 1950s, the site was used to test advanced aircraft technology, particularly reconnaissance and stealth technology.
Today, the past product of the work at Area 51 is mostly public knowledge. The U2 and SR-71 spy planes, which warranted great secrecy until the 1980s, are now retired. Incidentally, those aircraft flew so high, and the SR-71 so fast, that they prompted many UFO sightings in the Western U.S. Reports of high flying, fast moving UFOs were actually spy planes flying much higher and faster than the public thought possible at the time. It didn't help that their shapes were unconventional too.
Stealth technology, which became public only in the late 1980s, was pioneered there. Today, stealth is becoming commonplace and three decades behind Area 51, nations such as China and Russia are finally developing their own stealth aircraft.
Drone technology was also pioneered there, and today that is also commonplace.
However, there remains no credible evidence that Area 51 has anything to do with UFOs or aliens. The entire sensation over the phenomenon has turned out to be a convenient distraction for the public from the true purpose of the facility. In a sense, the UFOs were a true conspiracy, but one conveniently manufactured by the public, with a little help from the government.
Or, could it be that the conspiracy itself IS the conspiracy? It's not too far fetched to imagine a few colorful personalities on the government dole in exchange for insisting that Area 51 is all about aliens, drawing attention away from the very real nature of the facility. Perhaps public confusion is part of the proof.
Today, Area 51 continues to operate, still in secret, despite the publication of many photos and a revelation of its history. It remains a matter of wild speculation to imagine what is developed there today, although the secrecy is much improved by technology.
Around the perimeter, motion sensors detect people approaching on foot. Most of the work, once done on the tarmac, is now done underground in laboratories, often with computers and simulations. Fewer flights are needed now that the blueprint and slide rule have given way to software.
Whatever goes on there, we can rest assured of two things. First, it is beyond what we can imagine today, just as stealth technology was beyond the average imagination of the 80's kid. Second, the projects they develop today will become known in the decades to come, just as we now know what they were really up to during all those years of our youth.
|You can view Area 51 with Google, but it looks pretty mundane. Of course, they knew when the imaging satellite was passing over.|
|A secret aircraft component is transported. The cover is to protect it from damage, dust, and eyes.|
|Some of the secret craft tested by the Air Force. Flying disks were in phase for awhile. It was thought they might be more maneuverable than conventional aircraft.|
|OXCART aircraft lined up for a photoshoot. Despite the secrecy, officials were very proud of their success and for good reason. Unfortunately, that reason is classified.|