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Area 51 and the Aliens

SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION - Area 51 and the Aliens.

We may have Tang thanks to the space program, but who gave us such innovations as the Stealth fighter and Kevlar? Aliens, of course.

Conspiracy theorists believe that the remains of crashed UFO spacecrafts are stored at Area 51, an Air Force base about 150 miles from Las Vegas, where government scientists reverse-engineer the aliens' highly advanced technology. Fodder for this has come from a variety of supposed UFO sightings in the area and testimony from a retired Army colonel who says he was given access to extraterrestrial materials gathered from an alien spacecraft that crashed in Roswell, N.M. Some believe that the government studies time travel at Area 51, also known as Groom Lake or Dreamland.

The government has developed advanced aircraft and weapons systems at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, including Stealth bombers and reconnaissance planes. And the government's official line — that the details of Area 51 are classified for purposes of national security — is only seen as further proof that the military is hiding aliens or alien spacecraft.

How Area 51 became the center of alien conspiracy theories

In the early 1950s, US planes were conducting low-flying recon missions over the USSR. But there were constant worries of them being spotted and shot down.

So … in 1954, President Eisenhower authorized the development of a top-secret, high-altitude recon aircraft dubbed Project Aquatone. The program required a remote location that wasn't easily accessible to civilians or spies. Area 51 fit the bill perfectly.

It was in the Nevada desert near a salt flat called Groom Lake. No one knows exactly why it's called Area 51, but one theory suggests it came from its proximity to the Nevada Nuclear Test Sites. The Nevada Test Site was divided into number-designated areas by the Atomic Energy Commission. The location was already familiar territory for the military, as it had served as a World War II aerial gunnery range.

In the summer of 1955, sightings of "unidentified flying objects" were reported around Area 51. That's because the Air Force had begun its testing of the U-2 aircraft. The U-2 can fly higher than 60,000 feet. At the time, normal airliners were flying in the 10,000 to 20,000 feet range. While military aircraft topped out around 40,000 feet. So if a pilot spotted the tiny speck that was the U-2 high above it, they would have no idea what it was. And they would usually let air traffic control know someone was out there. Which is what led to the increase of UFO sightings in the area. While Air Force officials knew the UFO sightings were U-2 tests, they couldn't really tell the public. So they explained the aircraft sightings by saying they were "natural phenomena" and "high-altitude weather research."

The testing of the U-2 ended in the late 1950s; but, Area 51 has continued to serve as the testing ground for many aircraft, including the F-117A, A-12, and TACIT BLUE.

No one knows for sure what Area 51 is up to these days. The government never even publicly acknowledged the existence of the base until 2013, with the release of declassified CIA reports. But if you're ever at the Las Vegas airport, keep an eye out for some small, unmarked, passenger planes in a fenced-off area. They're how Area 51 employees get to work from their homes in Vegas.

Here's What Happens When People Actually Approach Area 51

While some Area 51 visitors do believe that the site, near Rachel, Nevada, is home to a secret government cache of alien technology (or aliens themselves), the government says it’s an Air Force testing ground. Regardless of the lore surrounding the place that drives tourism, visitors aren’t exactly welcome.

“You can tell that they’re watching you,” says YouTuber Josh Yozura, who tried to visit Area 51 three years ago.

Yozura says the area around the gate he approached was basically a desert with fields, cows, and distant mountains as far as the eye can see. Nonetheless, he could tell he was under surveillance — and he noticed guards stationed in buildings around 20 feet ahead. “They’re always watching,” he says.

Three gates lead to Area 51, according to accounts of some who visited. Beyond the guards he could see further back, nobody greeted Yozura at the entrance. Cameras surround the three gates, too, Yozura says. He could also make out the shapes of people sitting on mountains in the distance beyond the gates.

Despite his “eerie” feeling, though, Yozura says he left Area 51 with a better understanding of why it fascinates so many people. “It’s a whole big mystery, and that’s why I think we all love it so much,” he says.

John Morris, a photographer and YouTuber who approached Area 51 during a 2016 road trip, said the experience was “really cool,” but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something seemed off. “You could disappear overnight and no one would ever know,” he says. “So it’s also kind of eerie.”

When he headed up to the gates, Morris was struck by how different it was from other military bases he had visited. “It’s a gate with all these buildings [behind it], and people inside the buildings, but nobody’s standing outside. Nobody’s near the gates,” he says. Morris ate lunch at the Little A’le’Inn, a nearby restaurant and hotel, and tried to get some insight from the locals. But “they were kind of tight-lipped about the whole thing themselves,” he says. The restaurant was decked out in all manner of extra-terrestrial paraphernalia, no doubt an effort to cash in on the believers who make the pilgrimage.

For Kyle Rakutis, who made an Area 51 visit at nighttime in 2014 on a road trip from the Boston area to the West Coast, things went differently. At the Little A’le’Inn, a bartender gave Rakutis directions up a dirt road to the gates of Area 51. That’s when his visit took a turn, he says. “I’m reading the signs and all of a sudden the gates open, so I drive-in, and these three military guys come out, guns drawn. As I’m sitting there, I’m kind of freaking out, because they don’t really say anything,” Rakutis says. “They just say, ‘check him out,’ and start searching my vehicle immediately.”

Rakutis says he didn’t get a good look at Area 51, which he believes was still miles beyond the gate where he says he was stopped. He noticed “flickering lights off in the distance,” Rakutis says, leading him to believe there were buildings of some kind beyond the gates. “But at that point honestly I was too scared for my life to even take a close look at it.” A guard wrote down his license plate number, sent him away, and closed the gate.

Rakutis doesn’t encourage anyone to visit Area 51 — much less to “raid” it — because he “feared for [his] life” as the guards approached him. Morris, who has years of experience as a travel photographer and photojournalist, agrees that visiting Area 51 just didn’t feel right. “I travel for a living, so I’m used to getting put into different situations like that,” Morris says. “But that was something else.”