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Science & Technology
Area 51 Goes Public


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From Diana J. Choyce
May 01 - 07, 2000

Area 51 will most likely be the subject of fantasy and debate for some time to come

Area 51, which covers 8,000 square miles in Groom Lake Nevada, has long tickled the imagination of the American public. It has been a fertile subject for all kinds of speculation as to its existence and its reason for being. Conspiracy theories and stories of aliens and abductions have abounded over the years. The base is believed by some to hold alien space crafts which are studied and copied by the government. It has been a testing ground for top secret aircraft from the U-2 spy plane to the B-2 Stealth Bomber. The name Area 51 was derived from its designation on bomb testing maps. Pictures of the area have been taken in the past but they were of poor quality. Recently, due to a 1994 presidential order allowing photographs to be taken, aerial satellite photos of astounding clarity have put Area 51 back in the news.

CBS News, a major American television network, recently obtained these photographs and made them public. A US company called Terraserver.com took the photos using a Russian spy satellite in 1998 and is posting them on their website. The images cover thousands of acres of the secret base. At this time they are black and white photos having a 2 meter resolution. Higher resolution color images are expected to be produced in the next few weeks. CBS News Technologist Dan Dubno reports the image further introduces an era of transparency, in which nations will find it more difficult to hide their secrets. High resolution satellite imagery, which is now available commercially from companies like Terraserver.com and SpaceImaging.com, will inform the world about disasters and give access to "denied" areas. The Air Force has only recently admitted that the Area 51base exists.

Several companies partnered for this project including Aerial Images Inc., Microsoft, Kodak, Digital Equipment Corp., Autometric Inc. and the Russian agency Sovinformsputnik. In 1998 they launched a Russian satellite from Kazakstan to map the Earth's surface. An open air agreement signed in 1992 by 24 nations allowed the undertaking of the project. "The website is being hammered," said John Hoffman, president of Aerial Images. "This is the first glimpse into the most secret training and testing facility for the Air Force." The airspace over the base is restricted to all aircraft, but satellite flyovers are allowed as part of the open air agreement to verify arms control.

The images, so far, have not revealed any top secret alien artifacts. But the resolution of these images is good enough to show things as small as cars and trucks, which is far better than earlier photos taken by telephoto lenses from the nearby mountains. The only known image before these was taken by a satellite in the 1960's. So far the government hasn't responded or seems very worried about the release of the images. "I've had no feedback from anybody that indicates anybody gives a hoot, "he said. "We acknowledge having an operating site there, and the work is classified", Air Force spokeswoman Gloria Cales said. The work involves "operations critical to the U.S. military and the country's security." The new images show craters possibly formed by something falling from the sky or coming up from the ground. They also show hundreds of buildings, living quarters, tennis courts, a baseball field, a track and a swimming pool. The roads are unpaved and there are no parking areas. Since buses are the only vehicles to be seen, one wonders how employees get to and from work at the base. The unpaved roads seem to disappear into the cliffsides which suggest some type of underground facility.

Although the government has stated that the base is used for testing top secret aircraft, it has long been the subject of speculation concerning UFO's and aliens. Many books, articles, documentaries, and movies have dealt with the subject. A search on the internet will bring up massive amounts of information as well. One of the more interesting stories is the claim by a Las Vegas man, Bob Lazar, that he worked with extraterrestrial flying saucers at an installation at Papoose Lake, south of Groom Lake, in an area he calls "S-4." He says he helped "reverse engineer" one of the craft, but that he saw no aliens himself. This claim has not been proved and there seems to be no way to confirm or refute it, although Lazar's claimed educational credentials are known not to be real. Since Lazar first made this claim via televised interviews, tourists have been coming to the public area around the base in hopes of catching a glimpse of a UFO. Many believe they have actually seen one but due to the nature of the experimental aircraft that are tested here, its must hard to know what may be alien or not. Most people who have lived in the area all their lives have never seen one. Yet those who drive in, claim to see them after only one night of observing the skies.

Area 51 will most likely be the subject of fantasy and debate for some time to come. True or not it has certainly fueled the imagination of people the world over. So if curiosity takes over, one can visit www.terraserver.com to see these new images. A note from this writer....be very patient. I have tried many many times to access this site only to find it too busy to view.