Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, is a secret military facility about 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
The number refers to a 6-by-10-mile block of land, at the center of which is a large air base the government will not discuss. The site was selected in the mid-1950s for testing of the U-2 spyplane, due to its remoteness, proximity to existing facilities and presence of a dry lake bed for landings.
Groom Lake is America’s traditional testing ground for “black budget” aircraft before they are publicly acknowledged. The facility and surrounding areas are also associated — with varying levels of credibility — with UFO and conspiracy stories. In 1989, Bob Lazar claimed on a Las Vegas television station that he had worked with alien spacecraft at Papoose Lake, south of Area 51.
Since then, “Area 51” has become a popular symbol for the alleged U.S. Government UFO cover-up.