Area 51 has been ground zero for conspiracy theorists for decades.
Flying saucers. Bug-eyed aliens. Staged moon landings.
The government hasn't helped alleviate speculation -- it hasn't even acknowledged that the military outpost exists. If it did, it would be deep in the Nevada desert about 100 miles outside of Las Vegas.
But the National Geographic news website has posted photos that provide a rare glimpse inside the clandestine site. It recently published never-before-seen, declassified photos from 1963 of a military plane crash and its cover-up by the government, according to the website.
The photos also aired Saturday on "Area 51 Declassified" on the National Geographic Channel.
"Area 51 was created so that U.S. Cold Warriors with the highest security clearances could pursue cutting-edge aeronautical projects away from prying eyes," National Geographic said on its website. "During the 1950s and '60s Area 51's top-secret OXCART program developed the A-12."
During a test flight, the National Geographic report said, the A-12 crashed in the desert; photos were taken and then veiled in secrecy. The website reported that the pictures it published weren't shown publicly until the CIA recently declassified them.
Made by Lockheed Corp., the A-12 was a precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. The futuristic looking SR-71 was built by Lockheed at its famed Skunk Works facility in Burbank, Calif.
The jet could tear through the skies at more than 2,200 mph at 80,000 feet and survey 100,000 square miles of the Earth's surface per hour. It entered service in 1966 and was retired in 1998.
The photos show the plane without its trademark black paint. Instead, its silver titanium shines bright under the desert sun.
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