Area 51 stands as a testament to the dangers of secrecy, however necessary it might be. For decades, its value was minimized by government officials who would not explain the bases’s purpose.
The very existence of the southern Nevada base was curious; it was far from any cities, it had no major roads beside it, and there were no resources nearby which needed protection.
To make matters more suspicious, nearly all mentions of any operations at the base were redacted from all official documents, the security at the base was among the strictest of any military location, and few pictures were made available of the base.
The lack of transparency enamored the location to conspiracy theorists. Dozens of illicit government operations were rumored to be run from behind the protected fencing, and eventually the tendency for most conspiracy theories to involve Area 51 to one degree or another turned it into a bit of a punchline. By the 1980s, many people doubted that the place even existed.
As satellite imaging became more commonly available, that belief was conclusively disproven. The site was finally officially recognized by the U.S. government in 2013, due to a Freedom of Information Act request filed eight years prior. At that time, the CIA provided dozens of declassified documents explaining Area 51 and the reason for the deep secrecy surrounding it.
It was an air base.
It had been chosen because of its proximity to Groom Lake, a large dry lake bed which could function as a nearly ideal emergency runway for multiple aircraft. The location was also ideal because of its lack of proximity to any cities; amidst fairly flat, desert land anyone who might be attempting to spy would be easily detected. That was necessary, because the vehicles at Area 51 were not standard aircraft.
The revelations about the location included basics on many programs which had been run out from there. It was initially designed for the construction of the Lockheed U-2 spy plane, and continued to be used for the development and testing of other secret aircraft useful in reconnaissance and warfare.
It was also used to evaluate the aircraft of the Soviet military. American possession of Soviet planes was a government secret, and allowed U.S. pilots to familiarize themselves with the workings of potential enemy fighters. Revealing our ownership of the aircraft would have risked damage to our espionage operations, as Soviet agencies would have researched the avenues we used to get their technology and attempted to shut those avenues down.
These are all excellent reasons to provide the highest possible levels of security and secrecy. That is not nearly enough, however, because the years of conspiracy theory have developed a concrete mythology. Now, according to urban lore, there are aliens and/or alien technology hidden at Area 51.
Its position at the center of UFO lore is understandable. As a site for secret aircraft research, there have been many instances of nighttime flights in the area, as well as reports of aircraft doing things that normal aircraft are not perceived to be able to do.
Perceived, because just about every example of flight that was exclusively the domain of the extraterrestrials is now found in standard aviation, from vertical take-off and landing to flying at the upper reaches of the atmosphere, from flying without triggering standard radar systems to hovering. All of that tech developed due to research – the type of research which has been performed at Area 51.
Area 51, by remaining a high security area, is unable to be absolutely “debunked”. There is no evidence to disprove the acquisition of alien technology. There is no history of fakery or misunderstanding that would lead to the natural development of the Area 51 beliefs. There is instead a steady lack of any positive evidence of any such technology existing.
To any who wish to believe that Area 51 contains aliens or alien technology, the operative question is one of resources: why has American technology not made innovative breakthroughs which are generations ahead of existing tech, as one would expect with access to hyper-developed equipment? Instead, the many thousands of breakthroughs we have seen have been natural outgrowths of the prior generations of technology and the available scientific knowledge we possess.
If we are housing alien tech, but not using it, it seems like a massive allocation of national resources without any appreciable gain. If we are using it, why is there no evidence?
It’s unreasonable that Area 51 contains alien technology. That said, it’s not impossible, and many conspiracy theorists are perfectly happy to extrapolate “not impossible” to mean “certain.”
It’s still a secure base with heavily armed guards. The recent Facebook effort to gather people to storm the gates smacks both of the Russian efforts to manipulate the American public into acting in Russia’s behalf (exposure of secret aircraft would greatly benefit Russia) and of a suicidal desire to be “important.” We can only hope that the Facebook rally does not come to significant fruition.