For decades now, Nevada's Area 51 has been one of the most mythologized corners of American lore.
The plot of land, just 83 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is thought to be the place where the government stores all the UFO and alien memorabilia in its vast collection. A recently planned Area 51 raid and music festival has reignited the question: What's really going on over in that barren spot of Nevada desert?
In this installment of Discomplicated, we take a look at what we do know about the notoriously secretive space. This includes its history dating back to the dawn of the Cold War, what it was really used for, and even some possible explanations for all those UFO sightings that seem to happen out that way. Declassified documents have shown that Area 51 became a testing ground for all sorts of nuclear weapons, experimental aircraft, and lunar training — thanks in part to the large, dry lakebed that serves as a natural runway.
Starting back in 1955, wild new prototypes were tested, and the more planes were tested, the more people (including members of the military) would report seeing UFOs. And while they technically may have been UFOs, they weren't from an alien planet.
In addition, these remote desert facilities have been used to test foreign tech, but as a training ground for astronauts before they'd make the trip to the moon. It turns out detonating all those nukes ended up creating something of a lunar-like surface. Ironically, all those training regimens have helped fuel, in part, the conspiracy theory that the moon landings were faked.
That's not the only conspiracy theory Area 51 has been plagued with, either. Rumors of a massive underground infrastructure have ignited all sorts of talk about the Illuminati and other secret societies.
While no one seems to know the full story of what does go on at Area 51, the facts that are known seem to correlate with a few common-sense explanations. At least, that's what they want you to think.