Science & Technology

Area 51 Revealed!

Aircraft, not aliens


Area 51, a secretive military facility located in Nevada's Mojave Desert, has long been rumored as the site of various government experiments and encounters with extraterrestrial life. Far-fetched theories about the place's purpose were fueled by the federal government's refusal to acknowledge the site's existence in any way.

But that changed in August with the release of a declassified CIA report that-for the first time in history-admits that the site exists. There are no aliens to be found here, the document said, but plenty of details about Cold War spy planes.

The report, "Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, 1954-1974," was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by researchers at George Washington University's National Security Archive. It includes a map of the area, explains how the location was originally picked, and discusses how it was used as a training ground for pilots in the U-2 spy plane program in the mid-20th century.

The report also includes the names of pilots who flew U-2 missions, various code words used to describe parts of the project, discussion of the British role in spy-plane surveillance, and details of once-secret U-2 operations in China, India, and France.