Posted on April 28 2021
By Becky Sicking
Since the 1950s, science fiction fans and conspiracy theorists have debated the existence of a covert, or hidden, U.S. military facility known as Area 51. Rumors circulated that the facility conducted top-secret research on UFOs and alien life forms as well as other paranormal, or fringe, studies. Area 51 was supposed to be located in a remote part of Nevada in the Mojave Desert, although it has never appeared on maps of the area.
The stories of UFO sightings in the area were so popular that residents of Rachel, Nevada—the closest town to the supposed location of the facility—have embraced the rumors, even renaming the main road, Highway 375, “The Extraterrestrial Highway.” There are only about 100 people who live in the valley around Rachel. There is not even a post office in town. However, visitors to Rachel may stay at the Little A’Le’Inn (pronounced “little alien”), and they can dine there too. The inn even has an “Earthlings welcome” sign above the parking lot. Travelers seeking the paranormal can purchase alien-themed t-shirts, toys, and other souvenirs at the inn.
Reported UFO sightings focus on Groom Lake, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Rachel. Over the years, different people claimed to see unusual aircraft near the lake. The secret spacecraft were presumed to be stored at a large Air Force base—Area 51— a military base that the government denied existed.
But now the secret is out. A new report from the CIA confirms the existence of Area 51. According to the report, Area 51 is indeed an Air Force base, however, its use is far less mysterious than the rumors suggest. Area 51 tests new, secret airplanes, such as the Lockheed U-2 that was designed in the 1950s as a high-altitude reconnaissance plane. Other test subjects include the A-12 and the F-117A.
The report was released because Jeffrey T. Richelson, an archivist from George Washington University who is studying the history of the U-2 spy plane, invoked the Freedom of Information Act. Mr. Richelson said, This [report] is a history of the U-2. The only overlap [in] the discussion of the U-2 flights and U.F.O. sightings [is] the fact that you had these high-flying aircraft in the air being the cause of some of the sightings.” Mr. Richelson said he was not looking for information on Area 51. “That was sort of a bonus.”