Special Report: Area 51 Uncovered - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Investigative Reporter

Special Report: Area 51 Uncovered

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(Feb. 23, 2004) -- The infamous Nevada military base known as Area 51 is one of the most secretive places on Earth. For years, the government wouldn't even admit the base existed. Eyewitness News has aired many stories about the base over the years but we've never had much of a look inside -- until now. A private satellite company has developed something that allows people to fly in and take a look.

Anyone who's ever tested the outer perimeter of Area 51 knows about the security cameras and hidden sensors, about the cammo patrols and ominous signs and armed choppers. Now, however, it's possible to fly over all those security measures, to slip silently over the mountains, head for the dry lake, and take a birds eye view of everything inside Area 51.

This software isn't a toy. It's not a video game. It's the result of high-resolution satellite photos taken by the commercial satellite IKONOS , which was launched into space in 1999 and was hired a year later to photograph this once supposedly non-existent facility.

The satellite images reveal, in clear detail, that the Groom Lake base is very real -- and for Area 51 aficionados -- it gets better. The satellite images have been transformed into 3-dimensional software that allows a computer user to literally soar over the base, hover over any building, as if traveling in, say, a flying saucer. So, is the pentagon ticked off about this?

Gary Napier, Space Imaging spokesman, said, "I've personally never heard from the U.S. Government about Area 51 images. They've been on websites for over 4 years now."

Gary Napier works for Space Imaging, the Denver company that owns the Ikonos satellite and which maintains a good relationship with the military, in spite of the photos and software. Space imagery is licensed by the government to take whatever photos it wants to take.

It's website contains stunning imagery, the Giza pyramids, for instance, photos of the World Trade Center -- before and after -- a North Korean nuclear reactor, downtown San Francisco, Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip.

As with Area 51, the images could be transformed to 3-D. At the base, we can fly into the building known as Hangar 18, but we still don't know what's inside. We can zip down the world's longest runway and read the numbers painted there. It's a chance to see the base as never before, without spilling classified secrets.

Gary Napier; "True federal interpreters don't want to look at it in 3-D because the image becomes a little degraded. But the average lay person gets a better experience. The layperson has a better understanding of what Area 51 is like...."

And since it's unlikely the Air Force will open up the gates to Area 51 anytime soon, this version may be the best view anyone has of Groom Lake for a long time.

The I-Team has one of the only copies of the 3-D software and Space Imaging says the software will not be sold to the public.



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