Monday, May 23, 2011

Area 51, Aliens, Roswell, History, Where it got its Name, What Has Happened in the Past

A Brief History of Area 51

What's In A Name?Area 51 is known by many names. Kelly Johnson, who was responsible for the facility's construction, named it Paradise Ranch (he was being sarcastic). Other names for the base include The Ranch, Watertown Strip, The Box, Red Square, The Farm, Groom Lake, Dreamland and the romantic name Air Force Flight Test Center, Detachment 3.

During World War II, the Army Air Corps (precursor to our modern Air Force) built several runways in Nevada, including a pair of small runways at Groom Lake. They named the spot the Army Air Corps Gunnery School. After the 1940s, the runways were abandoned.

In the early 1950s, the CIA entered a partnership with Lockheed to develop high altitude aircraft to use in surveillance missions. Kelly Johnson of Lockheed helmed the project. He formed a department of engineers and test pilots that eventually took on the name Skunk Works. The Skunk Works department was famous for being very secretive and nearly fanatical in the pursuit of their goals.

The F117-A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter

Tacit Blue, aka "Shamu"
The SR-71 Blackbird
Lockheed's U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane

The MiG-21 is one of several Soviet aircraft allegedly tested and back engineered at Area 51.
The CIA and Johnson both knew that secrecy was critical to their success, and so Johnson needed to find a location to develop and test secret aircraft. He wanted a location that was remote enough to avoid notice, yet still close enough to a major city so that supplying the facility would not be a monumental task. The site would need to be easily accessible by aircraft and out of the way of commercial and military flight paths. It would also need space to house a sizeable force of military and civilian employees.

In 1955, he traveled to Nevada with test pilot Tony LeVier and CIA representative Osmond Ritland to find a good place to use as a base of operations for test flights. Ritland trained at the Gunnery School and told Johnson about it. Johnson decided the location was ideal for their operations.

Four months later, crews completed the initial construction. U-2 test flights began and President Eisenhower signed an Executive Order restricting the airspace over Groom Lake. The CIA, the Atomic Energy Commission and Lockheed oversaw base operations. Eventually, control of the base would pass to the Department of Energy and the Air Force.

The first documented use of the name Area 51 comes from a film made by the company Lockheed Martin. There are also declassified documents from the 1960s and 1970s that refer to a facility called Area 51. Today, officials refer to the facility as an operating location near Groom Lake when speaking to the public -- all official names for the site appear to be classified.

Area 51 was referred to as Groom Lake and then eventually as the Nevade Test Site (NTS) a testing site for nuclear weapons. It took on its more common name of Area 51 sometime in the 1950's.

Where is Area 51?

Area 51's coordinates are 37°14'36.52"N, 115°48'41.16"W. You can get a great view of it using Google Earth. Just type "Area 51" into the "Fly To" field and the map does the rest. For decades, the base remained hidden from almost everyone, but in 1988 a Soviet satellite photographed the base. Several publications acquired the photos and published them. The secrecy of the base is still of paramount importance, but as far as satellite coverage is concerned, the cat is out of the bag.

Roswell Does Not Equal Area 51While Area 51 and Roswell are often mentioned in the same breath, the two locations are pretty far from each other. Roswell is in New Mexico and, according to Google Maps, is 891 miles away from Area 51. The trip would take you more than 15 hours to get there by car, and by most reports it's not a very exciting drive.

So what exactly goes on at Area 51 According to the Air Force, the facility's purpose is for "the testing of technologies and systems training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States." All specifics regarding the facility and the projects housed there are classified. What is known is the Air Force, the CIA and Lockheed have used the base as a staging ground for test flights of experimental, secret aircraft, also known as black aircraft. The base served as the development and testing facility for cutting edge aircraft technology from the U-2 spy plane to the F-117A Stealth Fighter.

Area 51 and Aliens
Some believe that an alien spacecraft crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, and that the government shipped the wreckage and a body to Area 51 for examination and study. A few go even further, claiming the facility has underground levels and tunnels connecting it to other secret sites, and that it contains warehouses full of alien technology and even living alien specimens. Some theorize that the aliens are actually the ones running the show and that their goal is to create a human-alien hybrid (the aliens seem to have lost the ability to reproduce on their own). Stories cast the aliens in roles from benevolent visitors to evil overlords who subsist on a paste made from ground-up human bits. Air Force representatives have publicly denied that aliens have anything at all to do with Area 51, but that seems to have only strengthened conspiracy theorists' wilder suggestions.

In UFO enthusiast lore, Hangar 18 is the name of the building that houses a captured alien spacecraft and even an extraterrestrial being. The location of Hangar 18 is up for debate among believers. Some have claimed the hangar at Area 51 is Hangar 18. A film titled "Area 51: The Alien Interview" shows an alleged alien in captivity, though skeptics raised doubts of its authenticity. Rick Baker, a special effects expert with many years of experience, stated categorically that he believed the alien to be nothing more than a puppet.

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