People love a conspiracy. From political assassinations to the manipulation of national and global economies, supposed experts put forth theories that mysterious and powerful forces are always at work in the shadows. As a secret military base, Area 51 has become one of the most studied, debated and exaggerated of these conspiracies.
Area 51 was originally established in the late 1950's as a joint venture between the C.I.A. and the Lockheed Corporation looking for a remote site to develop and test the U2 spy plane. The Groom Lake dry lake bed, with a small auxiliary airfield developed during World War 2 by the air force, was a perfect location. The C.I.A. acquired the Groom Lake area from the air force and began to develop a secure base to test the new super-secret spy plane.
Area 51's remote setting made it the optimum location to continue to test new projects and Groom Lake operated with little scrutiny until 1989, when Bob Lazar, a supposed physicist with degrees from both M.I.T. and Caltech, began making claims that he had been recruited to reverse engineer the propulsion system of a crashed alien space craft kept at the base.
Bob Lazar's claims lead to a series of interviews and speaking engagements in which he stated that not only did he work on alien propulsion systems, after he was fired from the base for violating a confidentiality agreement, government officials made threats against his life and erased both his educational and professional backgrounds, making any of his assertions un-provable. Assuming that the government was capable of completely erasing any record of his background, Lazar should be able to verify his own educational credentials. He must still have such things as class registration papers and schedules, report cards or even an actual diploma in his possession yet he has never offered to produce any documentation of this type.
Look beyond the myriad of unsubstantiated claims and Area 51 becomes little more than a government laboratory where scientists can test the practicality of their theories and concepts. The base is large and remote out of necessity. It is not to hide aliens and their craft from the public but because it is hard to keep the development of a new super-sonic fighter plane secret when it is being flown over suburban America. The development and testing of new technologies can and does lead to accidents. When these occur, the government does not want the situation to jeopardize innocent lives and be open to scavengers becoming familiar with the technology or contaminating the accident site before an investigation can be conducted.
Much like aspiring inventors working in garages and corporate scientists employed by research laboratories around the world protect their inventions and findings, governments have a right and responsibility to protect their investments and technological advancements. Defense technologies are developed in secret, far from the prying eyes of the public not because the government is conducting medieval-like experiments in dark laboratories, but because if the average citizen knows a nation's secret defense tactics, enemy organizations and states have already begun developing counter-measures.
Evidence plays only a small part in the proliferation of a conspiracy. Rumors of aliens working side by side with government scientists and the reverse engineering of crashed UFOs make for better stories than physicists crunching numbers and engineers building prototype models. Conspiracy believers claim that the growth and development of the facilities at Area 51 are proof that secret tests are continuing to be conducted at the Groom Lake base. These advocates then promote the idea that these tests are on systems and technologies developed from the reverse engineering of alien space craft and with the aid of aliens living at the base.
Civilian UFO reports, not just from the United States but around the world, typically describe these crafts as hovering, landing and moving in a vertical motion. If these reports are true, the logical conclusion is that a craft built from alien technology would require something resembling a helipad, and not the longer runways built at Groom Lake, for take-offs and landings. Longer runways would, however, be required for the more efficient and powerful jet propulsion systems developed and designed by human engineers. This indicates that photographic evidence of changes at the base point to the development and testing of aircraft based on scientific advancements in avionics and propulsion systems of the terrestrial, not alien type.
The security at area 51 is often used as ammunition by conspiracy theorists. UFO hunters and sky watchers circle around the perimeter of the base feeling a false sense of importance at the first sign of security forces. Staring down and taunting these forces, the civilians are more irritation than actual threat to the base. They claim that the military's use of electronic sensors and monitors and the posting of signs declaring that the use of deadly force is authorized prove that the government is hiding something extra-terrestrial at the base. More advanced than typical home or commercial grade electronics, military surveillance systems are designed to keep installations as secure as possible with a minimum of personnel monitoring the perimeter, responding to situations only as needed.
The real threat to security at Groom Lake comes not from civilians getting in but information getting out. Conspiracy theorists claim that the U. S. military doesn't want knowledge about what goes on at the base becoming public because much of the technology is alien. All of this is based on unsubstantiated and un-credible stories and reports and there has never been evidence to prove otherwise. But there is both evidence and history of the projects developed at the base being worth billions of dollars in defense and avionic advancements. Foreign governments and private corporations alike would be eager to get this information at almost any cost in an effort to be a step ahead of the United States.
Everyone, from the family down the street to multi-billion dollar corporations and governments around the globe, has secrets. Often these secrets are mundane, existing only because there is little interest in them, but some, especially government and industrial secrets can have significant monetary and security value. The large and multi-faceted budgets of national governments are easy targets for conspiracy theorists. Self-proclaimed government watchdogs and over-seers search out unexplained expenditures or black budgets and turn them into conspiracies. They mistakenly claim that citizens have a right to know what is being done with their tax dollars. These same people, if asked by their employers to document how they spend their salaries, would refuse and claim that it was a violation of their right to privacy.
There is no denying that the projects being conducted at area 51 are classified. Only the people working on them truly understand the technology and its capabilities. The more information available about the projects means that the technology is both less valuable and less effective. Lights in the sky are mysterious because the observers are most likely unfamiliar with the technical advances being developed and tested at the base. It is too big of a leap to go from "I am unfamiliar with secret advances in aviation and defense technology" to "I don't know what that is or what they are doing so it must be alien".
Repeatedly, as the many projects developed at Groom Lake have become declassified, the technology can be traced back to its origins. Never has there been any real indication that these origins have been anything other than scientists with some ideas and looking for a place to test them. The real conspiracy might be against the families of area 51 personnel as these employees work on some of the greatest technical advances of our time without saying a word.