Area 51 is a highly classified United States military installation within the Nevada Test and Training Range. It is located at Groom Lake, in Southern Nevada, 83 miles from Las Vegas. Built in 1955, it was initially built to serve as a test facility for the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane. Over the years, other well-known aircraft has been tested here, including the Archangel-12, the SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. Area 51 was not officially acknowledged by the CIA as a military base until June 2013.
The CIA reports the correct names for Area 51 are Groom Lake and Homey Airport (KXTA). Groom Lake is a salt flat used for runways for the Nellis Bombing Range Test Site. The lake itself is 3.7 miles north to south and 3 miles across at its widest point.
While the origin of the name is unclear the general belief is that Area 51 was part of an Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) numbering grid, however, Area 51 does not belong to this system. It has also been suggested that the number 51 was used because the AEC would not need it for the grid system.
Over the years Area 51 has been the focus of conspiracy theories about UFO sightings and extraterrestrials, although the military has never confirmed. The Air Force maintains that this a flight testing facility. Due to the folklore the small town of Rachel, Nevada often receives annual visitors as it has become somewhat of a tourist destination and even has an "Extraterrestrial Highway". Rumors began after civilians in the area started reporting UFO sightings, which were primarily test flights conducted by the installation.
Conspiracy theories about Area 51 blossomed in the late 1980s, when a man who allegedly worked at the installation claimed the U.S. government was auditing recovered alien aircraft. Over the years, other theories include Area 51 being used for weather manipulation, the development of energy weapons and exotic propulsion systems as well as the storage and reverse engineering of alien spacecraft. Very little information is available from the government regarding Area 51.