In the middle of the desert, some 30 miles south of Rachel, in Lincoln County, Nevada, USA, lies a place that is considered one of the most mysterious places that have captured the popular imagination – Area 51. The area, which is a secret base for US military activity, is often described in folklore as a place where the government hid aliens and alien spaceships to conduct research on them.
Just two years ago, a joke calling for people to storm Area 51 and see aliens went viral on Facebook with over 2 million people responding. The event was set for September 20, 2019 and was created as a joke by 21-year-old California resident Matty Roberts. Soon the FBI showed up at Robert’s door and tried to turn the joke into some kind of music festival. Some 6,000 people showed up by the appointed date, taking part in what had become a DIY festival. The participants did not choose to storm the area. Just 10 days ago, two people, including a Youtuber from the Netherlands, were arrested about 8 km inside a restricted area of the area and charged with trespassing.
Given that there has been so much speculation about the region since its inception during the Cold War, do we really know anything about it?
The origin of area 51
The origin story of the mysterious site dates back to the early 1950s, when American planes flew over the Soviet Union to conduct surveillance and gather military intelligence. However, with these “reconnaissance missions” there was great danger that the planes would be identified and shot down by the USSR army. To solve this problem, in 1954 the United States began work on a specialized reconnaissance aircraft, dubbed Project Aquatone, which could fly high and perform safe surveillance. To ensure that the project does not fall into the hands of enemy spies, Area 51 was chosen, given its inaccessibility to civilians and spies. A secret army was put in place and the development of the aircraft began.
Origin of the mystery
Area 51 got its numerical name because it belonged to the Nevada nuclear test site which was divided into numbered zones. During the summer of 1955, numerous sightings of strange flying objects were reported in the area. The tests of the new U-2 aircraft of the United States Air Force had started at the time. The aircraft could fly over 60,000 feet and would look different and unidentifiable from normal airliners that flew at around 10,000 feet in height and regular military planes that flew at around 40,000 feet. To normal and military aircraft pilots, the U-2 would look like a tiny, mysterious dot in motion. The pilots reported the sightings to air traffic control. This gave rise to the mystery of sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). While the US Air Force had the idea that these sightings were in fact their own aircraft, they couldn’t tell the public. Over time, the mystery has grown.
About 60 years after the establishment of the Area 51 military base, a revelation was made when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released documents that included maps of the area. The documents officially recognized that Area 51 was, in fact, used by the US Air Force, but suggested that it was simply being used as a test site for surveillance programs like U-2 and OXCART.
However, popular culture had developed too many myths, thanks to movies and TV shows and conspiracy theories, to let them go despite the revelation. As a result, Area 51 still remains an interesting phenomenon in popular culture.
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