How Area 51 got its name
Area 51’s name came from its map designation when it was added as the fifty-first area of the Atomic Energy Commission’s Nevada Proving Ground (where they tested atomic bombs).
Need to know basis
Even the U.S. President is on a “need to know basis” and doesn’t know everything that happens on the site.
Secretly acquired Soviet fighter jets
Area 51 boasted a number of secretly-acquired Soviet MiG fighter jets from which engineers designed planes to counteract the fighters’ strengths. The codename for the first project was HAVE DOUGHNUT.
Near Area 51 is Nevada’s State Route 375 (SR-375). State officials nicknamed the road “Extraterrestrial Highway” in 1996 due to the high number of reported UFO and alien sightings.
Fake lunar landing
Some conspiracy theorists believe the lunar landing was staged at Area 51 since astronauts tested lunar rovers and life support systems at the atomic testing grounds next door.
A long commute
To keep locals from suspecting something strange happening at Area 51, most of the base’s staff were flown in daily from Las Vegas 90 miles (145 km) away.
An un-hackable system
One of the biggest reasons so little information about Area 51 has been leaked is that it was never (or most areas of it were never) connected to the internet. Thus, outside hackers can’t get into its system.
The first major U.S. spy plane
President Dwight D. Eisenhower first put Area 51 under control of the CIA to develop the U-2 spy plane which played a paramount role in U.S. spy operations over the Soviet Union.
Area 51’s former employees
There’s an association for former Area 51 employees (many from Lockheed) named Roadrunners Internationale. Members meet up to discuss their work experiences, but with most information still classified, there’s little they can actually chat about.
Area 51’s original purpose
The area chosen for Area 51 was formerly a gunnery range for Army Air Corps pilots during World War II.
The photograph that sparked 1,000 memos
Astronauts on the U.S.’s orbiting Skylab inadvertently snapped a picture of Area 51. NASA and the intelligence community debated back and forth about the impact to national security if the image was released publicly. Ultimately, the photo was put in a collection of Skylab pictures and nobody noticed.
Poetic inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe
Area 51’s more common nickname – Dreamland – likely came from the Edgar Allan Poe poem of the same name. It warns “the traveler, traveling through it, may not-dare not openly view it; Never its mysteries are exposed, to the weak human eye unclosed.”
Area 51’s name today
Today, Area 51 is known as the “Air Force Flight Test Center, Detachment 3″ or, abbreviated, AFFTC Det. 3.
Fuel used in the A-12 OXCART could withstand temperatures so high not even a lit match would ignite it. Such powerful fuel meant the plane could fly from New York City to Los Angeles in just over an hour. It required so much space to land that a 1.6 mile (2.6 km) runway was created at Area 51.
The Soviets gave away secrets
By not classifying the work of Russian theoretical physicist and electrical engineer Pytor Ufimtsev, the Soviet Union unwittingly gave the U.S. an advantage when American scientists at Area 51 found the “Rosetta Stone breakthrough for stealth technology” in Ufimtsev’s work.
25 Demystifying Facts About Area 51 The Government Probably Doesn’t Want You To Know