Area 51: What is it and what goes on there?

Area 51 is synonymous with tales of UFOs, government cover-ups and potentially testing alien technology. 

Located at Groom Lake in the middle of the barren desert of southern Nevada, Area 51 is a U.S Air Force installation that has become infamous for a speculated connection with unidentified flying objects (UFOs).  

Conspiracy theories surrounding the base suggest that it is used for the testing of alien technology recovered from supposed crash sites, like the famous one in Roswell, New Mexico. 

As a result, this innocuous-looking military installation has become an intrinsic part of the modern mythology and urban legends of the 20th century, with a large influence on media and pop culture.  

Area 51 is located 120 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas, near the small towns of Rachel and Hiko.  

Established in 1955 as part of the Nevada Test and Training Range complex, the area was also given the name "Paradise Ranch" in an attempt by aerospace company Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) to draw employees to the base. 

Today, the base and the wider Nevada Test and Training Range complex are part of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), with the CIA referring to it as the Groom Lake and Homey Airport. 

He's also deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and has written several articles regarding the conspiracy theories surrounding Area 51. 

"The base itself is fairly small, but the restricted area around it is over 90,000 acres [36,000 hectares]  —  partly to prevent prying eyes and partly because they need to test classified aircraft," Radford told 

But that acknowledgment doesn't mean that a visit to the base is advisable. Radford said that there are still legitimate government and military reasons for keeping the base's activities secret. 

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