Area 51 is a research site that operated as a centre for manufacturing and testing aircrafts during the Cold War, reinforced and protected by the United States Government, as is now dedicated to military research and development.
Everything that might involve secrecy and is emitted from the United States Government surrounds itself with a very attractive aura of mystery. Area 51 has nurtured literature, cinema, academic articles and documentaries for decades, and the imagination of many people. Still today. So much so, that an event on Facebook scheduled for the 20th of September urged to participate in a ‘raid’ at the site, which is located in Nevada (United States of America), and to check once and for all, if these conspiracy theories regarding extraterrestrial life are indeed true. The event, which is called Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of US in which more than two million people responded ‘attending’ on the event, and around 1.5 million responded ‘interested’, however, only about 150 people actually showed up to Area 51. The communiqué read as follows:
"We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry. If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let's see them aliens.”
In the social imaginary, Area 51 is a sort of clandestine place for UFOs and extraterrestrials; now, this imaginary materializes through this surprising and massive summons, at a time when conspiracy theories and pseudosciences are very much mainstream and gaining more and more followers on the Internet (the flat earth society and its astonishing rise are a perfect example of this).
But the mystery surrounding this place becomes much more rational if we understand it for what it is: a US government facility designed to test various secret aircraft projects. In fact, there are CIA documents that have been declassified at various times in recent decades attesting to the role of Area 51 in radar system testing, and detailing some covert operations during the Cold War. A mystery, yes; but it is all military and has no extraterrestrial aspects to it.
The origin of Area 51
In 1955, Kelly Johnson, the director of Skunk Works (code name for a high-tech aircraft design program) of Lockheed Corporation (a US aircraft company) was looking for a suitable (and secretive) place to safely test a revolutionary spy plane, the U-2.
During a trip on April 12th of that year with Richard Bissell, the CIA project manager; and Colonel Osmund Ritland, from the Air Force, flew over what appeared to be a runway near a salt mine known as Groom Lake, near the northeastern corner of Nevada Proving Ground of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). It was the Groom Lake airfield, which had been active since 1942 under the name Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field. Johnson and his teammates agreed that it would be an ideal place to test the U-2 and train their pilots in the project, which they called Aquatone.
Image: The National Security Agency
President Eisenhower approved the plan, and the territory, known for its map designation (Area 51), was added as the Nevada test site. By July 1955, the base was read and the CIA, Air Force and Lockheed Corporation personnel got down to work.
At the same time, Lockheed began work on another project, known as OXCART, which consisted of manufacturing the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft. Subsequently, in the following decade, the US Air Force and Secret Service continued to manufacture aircrafts and test various projects, such as the F-117/Have Blue. All under the most absolute secrecy and with overwhelming military protection (with the aim of hiding the existence of such aircrafts from the Soviet Union during the Cold War).
Area 51 today
In 2013, the NASA administrator, Charles Bolden confirmed in an interview with Sky News the existence of Area 51. He also explained that it is a remote detachment of the Edwards Base of the United States Air Force dedicated to military research and development, as in fact it did in its origin.
Bolden acknowledged in the interview that the work being carried out there is in the strictest confidentiality, but that doesn’t mean that there are indications of extraterrestrial technology or anything like it.
Today, an extensive collection of scientific literature can be found on the internet that has gradually been declassified by the CIA, explaining the operations carried out in Area 51, as well as its history and a map of its location.
But it is also true that to this day Area 51 remains strictly guarded and maintain warning signs, in which it states that it is forbidden to take pictures, and that the use of lethal devices is also allowed, that is: there is permission to ‘shoot to kill’ for anyone who tries to enter. ‘Excessive security’ measures continue to arouse the apprehension of many.