Hundreds descend on desert close to "Area 51" 01:48 It"s been a perennial American obsession for much more than 50 years. It"s listed a shadowy backdrop because that shows like "The X-Files" and movies prefer the 1996 summer blockbuster "Independence Day." and also in 2019, this well-known however little-understood place took over social media once one jokester motivated millions of people to RSVP "yes" come trespassing.

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The place: Area 51, a remote patch the desert part 83 miles north-northwest of ras Vegas, beside a salt level at the foot that a mountain. This army outpost — and what"s happened inside it — is for this reason top-secret the its very existence was discussed until 2013.

In short, Area 51 was produced during the Cold war to help America peek in on the Soviet Union. But, because of its clandestine beginnings and also cutting-edge tech, numerous Americans concerned associate the base with extraterrestrial ships and small green men.

So, what is Area 51 really? What do we know for sure? just how did aCold war espionage procedure become connected with theories of deep-state cover-ups of crash-landed aliens? and why go dozens of world put their resides on host in September 2019 to drive right into the Nevada desert to stand external of it?

Here"s what we know for sure… and also what tricks are however to it is in revealed.

A authorize on display at an entrance gate to the Nevada Test and Training Range, situated near Area 51, ~ above September 20, 2019 near Rachel, Nevada. Getty images

Spy games and unmarked planes

Here"s what we perform know around Area 51: Today, the U.S. Air pressure uses the 38,400-acre spot of desert together a maintain site. Sometimes dubbed the Nevada Test and also Training Range, the base is situated next to a salt flat called Groom Lake and is house to several of the longest runways in the world.

The closest town is Rachel, Nevada, population 54. The airspace over the base is extremely off-limits. And also the land approximately it is peppered through warning indications to would-be trespassers.

We additionally know that workers aren"t commuting there by car. Air traffic manage audio the end of a exclusive terminal at las Vegas" McCarran global Airport suggests that government-owned passenger jets flying under the name "Janet Airlines" make everyday flights to and from… somewhere in the Nevada desert.

If friend ask air website traffic control, the "somewhere" is Homey plane (KXTA), otherwise known as Area 51. V the years, the base has additionally been referred to as Dreamland, Watertown, Yuletide and also Paradise Ranch.

A battle wakes increase the desert

Not lot was happening on this swath that land prior to World battle II. In 1864, prospectors found silver and also lead around Groom Lake salt flat. A man named Patrick Sheahan built a humble homestead and also founded Groom Mine in 1889. The Sheahans" homestead was around as isolated as it gets; ras Vegas wasn"t even founded as a city till 1905 and was inaccessible by railroad till 1906.

But the family"s quiet way of living abruptly changed in 1941, once the government sent agents come scout the area for usage as a training site for bomber planes. An airstrip, referred to as Indian Springs Auxiliary field No. 1, was constructed where Area 51 sit today, 6 miles indigenous the homestead. In 1951, the United states Department the Energy began nuclear detonation tests at the Nevada test Site, 20 mile from the Sheahans" homestead.

After WWII, the army training airstrip fell quiet, however not for long.

Area 51 as checked out from the air, circa 1964. repertoire of Roadrunners Internationale

Keeping the Cold battle cool

In march 1954, president Dwight D. Eisenhower to be worried the America"s lack of knowledge of Russia"s military breakthroughs might leave America fragile to attack. Therefore Eisenhower recruited a dashboard of experts to number out exactly how the unified States can use science to thwart a potential Russian attack.

One point was clear: The U.S. Would need eyes in the skies over the Soviet Union. And once America had actually a blueprint in the functions for a cutting-edge surveillance plane, a secure place would be compelled to assemble and test it.

A scouting group flew over Groom Lake. From above, they can see it to be remote, unassuming, and also it already had one airstrip. It to be perfect. That"s how Area 51 to be born.

In the early days, Lockheed technician Kelly Johnson nicknamed the base Paradise Ranch. This to be Johnson"s way of making the arid patch sound an ext appealing come potential staff. In spite of the absence of cultural attractions, nightlife or vegetation, workers embraced the moniker and also began introduce to themselves together "ranch hands."

Area 51 quickly came to be a favorite location for the CIA"s divide airborne espionage ops. Yet as projects became more technologically complex, the bare-bones facility needed significant upgrades. By 1964, Area 51 to be transformed right into a fully functional spy-plane factory.

Contractors poured a new asphalt runway come accommodate much faster planes, instead of the old, 5,000-foot one v one that stretched 8,500 feet. Workers ceded disassembled Naval real estate units and aircraft hangars to Groom Lake. Building crews dug a new water well and erected entertain facilities. They added all the essential warehousing, shop room and fuel storage.

"Day or night, you can get a steak"

In a 2010 interview v the Seattle Times, previous Area 51 contractor James Noce recalled that the food to be particularly an excellent in the "60s. Expert chefs hired away from ras Vegas restaurants could make just about anything. "Day or night, you could get a steak," Noce said, "whatever girlfriend wanted."

Through the years, the CIA and also Air Force emerged several types of surveillance and attack plane at Area 51. The an initial plane that was constructed at so-called sky Ranch was the U-2 spy plane. Succeeding projects had the Lockheed A-12, the SR-71 Blackbird and also the stealth F-117 Nighthawk strike aircraft.

During the Vietnam War, the base was the headquarters for a task to reverse-engineer a Soviet-built MiG-21-F13 aircraft that a defector pilot surrendered. Of course, those are simply some of the declassified projects we understand about.

You"ll notification that over there hasn"t been much talk yet of extraterrestrial autopsies or UFOs. That"s due to the fact that those story hadn"t emerged yet… but they were about to.

Flying saucers and also secrets

In the so late 1950s and also early "60s, calls and also letters about UFO sightings trickled in to air website traffic control and also the air Force.

These reports were, in big part, coming from airline pilots paris from eastern to west in ~ dusk. Lock reported see fiery disks, flying saucers, in ~ altitudes "too high" for any type of man-made plane. In ~ the time, as much as the public knew, even the most advanced military aircraft flew below altitudes the 40,000 feet. The U-2 spy airplane that the CIA was experimentation at Area 51 flew above 65,000 feet.

The wait Force started a routine in 1952 to inspection UFO reports. Operation Blue Book, as it to be dubbed, checked the details of each UFO report versus the CIA"s top-secret flight logs. When all the notes had actually been compared, civilians to be told they were witnessing a "weather phenomenon."

This only fueled the rumors that aliens were joy-riding in the skies over America.

Decades later, one man"s unsubstantiated cases would solidify what numerous people currently suspected.

In 1989, ras Vegas" neighborhood CBS affiliate, KLAS, aired one interview through a guy named Bob Lazar. In the interview, Lazar declared he and others had been stationed at a base in the Nevada desert referred to as "Sector 4." Lazar said Sector 4 was underground, linked to Area 51 by a vast, miles-long underground rail system. He said that lock were working to reverse-engineer an antimatter reactor-powered extraterrestrial spaceship.

No record of Lazar ever being to work by any kind of government or military organization has ever been found. Butone journalist asserts that Lazar had knowledge the the inner functions of Nellis Air pressure Base in las Vegas, the Groom Lake facility and Los Alamos national Lab in new Mexico.

men dressed together aliens run at "Alienstock," a "Storm Area 51" spinoff event, top top September 20, 2019 in Rachel, Nevada. Getty images

A pop society juggernaut

The visibility of the base ended up being America"s worst-kept an enig in the mid-1990s. Despite passing references to the basic had appeared in the media before, the very first major Hollywood manufacturing to specifically attribute the base was the 1996 summer blockbuster turned cult classic, "Independence Day."

More recently, it to be social media that brought attention to Area 51.

In June 2019, 21-year-old college student Matty Roberts chose to produce a on facebook event. He referred to as it "Storm Area 51, lock Can"t Stop every one of Us" and also said it would take ar September 20. Roberts didn"t think anyone would give the event, i m sorry he produced as a joke, more than a passing chuckle.

But within a few days, more than 2 million Facebook customers chimed in come "confirm" your attendance. The Air pressure issued a stern warning discouraging world from trying to gain accessibility to a army base.

Despite the warnings,around 1,500 civilization packed their campers and headed into the Nevada desert v your standard, alien-centric festival kit: Roswell-inspired onesies, inflatable aliens and the like. Forty bold people did make it as much as the suburbs of the base, however they mostly just chanted for a while and then distributed when challenged by law enforcement. One arrest was produced public urination.

Keeping our eyes on the skies

That"s about all us know around Area 51. Together for UFOs, there"s a bit more: The government"s investigation of unidentified phenomena walk not finish with procedure Blue Book.

In respectable 2020, the Pentagon announced the development of a new task pressure to better understand the nature and origin of such reports. (In 2017, the Pentagon admitted the it had actually been to run a an enig multi-million dollar regime to investigate UFOs because that years. The is unclear if the new task pressure is an development of or replacement for the old program.) federal government officials said that the new task pressure would protect national protection interests.

Earlier in 2020, the Pentagon officially exit three formerly leaked videos take away by marine pilots that present interactions between military planes and large, fast-flying objects. Officials provided no explanation because that the objects seen in the videos.

Most americans don"t expect the federal government to declassify the details of supposed alien sightings any kind of time soon. In fact, a poll indigenous June 2020 proved that much more than half of americans think if the U.S. Federal government had evidence of UFOs, they would certainly hide it from the public. Only 22% stated they think the info would be made public.

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The Senate knowledge Committee is holding out hope for much more military transparency. Members want the details from the Pentagon"s task pressure to be accessible to the public. However when it concerns intel on enemy invaders, many officials would rather focus on the threats here on earth than on tales from external space.