15. Time line of events
Information acquired from HowStuffWorks
The following is a time line beginning soon after Area 51’s construction:
- 1957 – The AEC distributes “Background Information on Nevada Nuclear Tests” to the press. The booklet describes a small base at Groom Lake called the Watertown Project. The booklet claimed the facility was part of a project to study weather.
- 1961 – The restricted airspace expands upwards, but not outwards — it measures five by nine nautical miles in size, but extends up to space and is designated R-4808. A year later, the Department of the Air Force expands the space again, but this time the perimeter grows to 22 by 20 nautical miles. This forms the “Groom Box,” or just “the Box,” as it is known today. No flights, whether commercial or military, are allowed in the restricted space (except the test flights from the base itself).
- 1962 – The first A-12 arrives at Groom Lake. The first test flight takes place two months after the aircraft’s arrival to the base. CIA pilots arrive at the base nearly a year later to begin flight training.
- 1967 – The first Mig 21, a Soviet aircraft, arrives at Groom Lake. Officials name the testing program of Mig aircraft “Have Donut.” Some pilots begin to call the restricted air space above Groom Lake “Red Square.”
- 1977 – Years before the public became aware of the Stealth Fighter, the first F117 prototype arrives at Area 51. It’s called the “Have Blue.” That same year, the United States Geological Survey takes an aerial photo of the base. The photo appears in numerous publications and is available until 1994, when the government withdraws it from release.
- 1982 – The first flight of the vehicle known as “Tacit Blue” takes place at Groom Lake. Like the F-117A, Tacit Blue is a stealth vehicle.
- 1984 – The base petitions for an additional 89,000 acres of land to increase the size of restricted space around the facility. Guards had previously discouraged the public from entering this area before it was officially withdrawn, raising concern and criticism from locals and tourists. The request is ratified by Congress three years later.
- 1988 – A Soviet satellite photographs Area 51. “Popular Science” runs the photograph, giving most U.S. citizens their first chance to glimpse the secret base. That same year, Robert Frost, a civilian employee at Area 51, dies. An autopsy shows that his body contained high levels of dangerous chemicals like dioxin, trichloroethylene and dibenzofuran. His widow, Helen, files a lawsuit against several government officials, claiming her husband died as a result of exposure to dangerous chemicals.
- 1989 – Robert Lazar appears on television and claims to have worked on reverse engineering alien technology at a site not far from Groom Lake.
- 1995 – Area 51 acquires two locations popular with tourists and curious locals. Freedom Ridge and White Sides Peak. President Clinton signs an executive order exempting Area 51 from legislation and investigation in order to preserve national security.
- 1996 – Nevada names Route 375, formerly known as the “loneliest highway in America,” the “Extraterrestrial Highway.” Skeptics around the world groan in unison.
- 1997 – Area 51 is declassified, though all operations at the facility are still kept secret.
- 2007 – It appears that crews are building a new hangar, much larger than the existing hangar. One Web site claims the hangar’s size to be 200 by 500 feet and 100 feet tall