Area 51: what is the mysterious place that inspires conspiracy theories (and why some believe it houses aliens)


Area 51: what is the mysterious place that inspires conspiracy theories (and why some believe it houses aliens)

At first they called it "Rancho ParaĆ­so" or "Land of Dreams".

It is a place in the middle of the desert where nobody would want to go to work, so you had to give it a name that sounded attractive.

Today it is better known simply as Area 51, a name much more in keeping with the secrecy that surrounds it.

This military base is located in the desert of the state of Nevada in the US, about 135 km north of Las Vegas, and has inspired all kinds of conspiracy theories, many of them related to aliens.

The Area 51 proving ground exceeds 12,000 km2, and it is believed that 1,500 people work there.

A Facebook event that invited people to reach the base en masse in search of aliens once again made the myths that surround it fashionable.

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What enigmas does Area 51 hold, and why do some believe it hides evidence of extraterrestrial life?

Silent warriors

Little is known about this area, but the truth is that even less was known before 2013.

In that year, the US government declassified documents in which it finally confirmed that Area 51 existed and that it was used as a testing and training ground for the Air Force.

Its name is simply due to the fact that it was built on land demarcated by the Atomic Energy Commission, in an area where nuclear tests were being carried out.

It was created in the mid-1950s, during the Cold War, as a laboratory where the Air Force tested several of the weapons for a possible confrontation with the Russians.

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It was there that the U-2 spy plane, the A-12 OXCART reconnaissance aircraft and the SR-71 Blackbird, as well as the stealth F-117 were put to the test.

Those in charge of these missions worked with the utmost secrecy and with limited information, even for themselves.

"We were silent warriors," he said in a National Geographic documentary T.D. Barnes, a supersonic flight specialist who worked at Area 51.

The pilots who participated in these secret training sessions say they identified themselves by code names. During the meetings they were not allowed to take notes and they had no radio or television.

They couldn't even tell their families what they did. One of the pilots, for example, told his wife that he worked repairing televisions.

Not even President Bill Clinton could be clear about exactly what the contractors working at the base were doing, as journalist Annie Jacobsen wrote in her book "Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Secret Military Base."

How does the myth arise?

The cryptic environment surrounding Area 51 turned out to be the perfect setting for all manner of conspiracy theories to emerge.

The aircraft being tested at the base flew three times higher than a commercial aircraft and at supersonic speed. They could cross the United States from coast to coast in just 70 minutes.

Colonel Hugh Slater, commander of the base in the 1960s, claims that while in command, the A-12 OXCART alone conducted 2,850 test flights.

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"That's a lot of UFO sightings!" Slater said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2014.

Slater was referring to the fact that when commercial jet passengers and pilots saw supersonic jets in action, they yelled "like crazy" and alerted the control tower thinking it was a UFO.

When they landed, authorities were waiting for them, making them promise not to say anything about what they had seen.

Another episode that fuels the myth is a famous incident recorded in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico.

In that place, the discovery of the remains of a strange artifact generated all kinds of speculation.

In 1994, a report by the Armed Forces concluded that it was actually a microphone that was raised with a balloon, related to a secret project that sought to detect Soviet nuclear tests.

The conspiracy theorists, however, claimed that it was actually an alien ship that was later transferred to Area 51 for investigation.

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In 1989, a man named Bob Lazar claimed to have worked at Area 51. According to his testimony, he saw photographs of aliens there and claimed that the government used the facility to examine UFOs.

Lazar, however, never presented hard evidence.

And there are legends for all tastes.

Those who believe that the man's arrival at L one was a fraud, say that it was in Area 51 where the entire montage was filmed. Others say the base is connected by underground tunnels that run all the way to Las Vegas.

For him, the Roswell case doesn't make sense either.

"If aliens were able to travel billions of kilometers safely to reach Earth, why would their brakes fail in the last 100 meters?"

Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the Institute for the Search for Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life, argues that the evidence for UFOs at Area 51 is "poor and anecdotal."

"Eyewitnesses are the worst kind of evidence there can be, it is evidence of inferior quality," he said in a recent video from the organization.

Is it worth going?

Area 51 is heavily guarded and those guarding it are allowed to use deadly force against those who try to push the boundaries.

What should we do if we contact extraterrestrial intelligence? This is how scientists prepare (and are interested in your opinion).

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