Researchers Discover Secretive US Base Wiped from Google Earth

A couple researchers recently made the astute observation that an area on Google Maps hasn’t been updated in 8 years. They observed that the longest period of time any area within the continental United States has gone without an update on Google Earth has been eight years, and the place that wasn’t updated has some strange history.

From 2008 to 2016, several dry lake beds in the Tonopah Test Range of Southwestern Nevada constituted a blind spot in people’s view of the Earth, through was was described as ” all-seeing corporate monolith” that is Google. The report was published in Motherboard, and it was the hard work of writer Brendan Byrne, and engineer Dhruv Mehrotra, a resident at Eyebeam, a technology and art non-profit.

For a sum of $1,984.50, the two managed to lease the missing satellite imagery from the company Apollo Mapping, a display of great ingenuity to retrieve the seemingly censored satellite information on the secretive base. This is an artist’s rendering of the leased image.

(Image credit: Motherboard)

The conditions imposed upon this lease are a little unusual, and therefore it can only be shown to individuals within the “company” of Byrne and Mehrotra, so they decided to host an event on October 25, 2018 called “Internal Use Only” to provide a showcasing of the experimental military installment, through that Google Earth style bird’s-eye view.

In response to the ingenious investigation by these researchers, Google got involved, contacting Motherboard to claim that there was no censorship involved in the lack of imagery updating, but rather lack of interest.

Google is connected to third-party providers, and they license imagery from them, updating areas where users tend to browse. This isn’t a very satisfying answer, still.

Since the publication of that article, the aerial view of that test zone now dates to October 2017. This is the finally updated image.

(Image credit: Motherboard)

According to an oft-cited Google Earth blog, most of the United States’ satellite imagery is updated somewhere around every three years.

The area in Nevada housing the Tonopah Test Range is a strong exception that “seems to have been missed.”

These researchers certainly brought a new dimension of understanding to Google Maps for anybody who read their report, highlighting how some of their imagery is aerial photography retrieved from helicopters or planes.

Airspace is tightly controlled over military bases, and as a result Google often has to retrieve imagery from private satellite companies as an alternative.

To make matters even more strange, the Tonopah Test Range is around 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the infamous Area 51, the military base famous for its alien and UFO mythology, as one could call it at this point.

So what happened at the Tonopah Test Range? It was reported that the range is used still apparently being used to test a variety of planes and weapons. The F-117, a slim-winged, original “stealth” aircraft used by the US military was developed at Tonopah.

Tonopah is actually a subsection of something called the Nellis Test and Training Range, jointly operated by the US Air Force and Department of Energy.

Since the beginning of the 1950’s, the Nellis Range has been a desert site of extensive weapons testing and government aerospace activity. Those dry lake beds at the site were used as aerial target practice historically, according to the official narrative.

The Nellis Complex contains HQ Creech Air Force Base, a drone pilot area and once the site of extensive nuclear detonations, formerly known as the Nevada Proving Grounds.

More recently the delivery vehicle of the infamous B61-12, a “steerable” variable yield nuclear bomb was tested there. They mean the delivery vehicle was tested, not the nuclear weapon itself.

(Image credit: Motherboard)

Experimental weapons testing has a rich, disturbing history, so deep one article can hardly scratch the surface of it, so it seems this is a fairly average site, not as secretive or intense as the other ones we know about: right? Well that’s the nature of a secret, the least secretive installation just might be the most important, only showing a few signs of secrecy.

After all, none of the other bases like this in the US were lacking an update on Google Earth for 8 years. Who knows what the reason for that is, if it gets deeper than what Google knows.

Motherboard went into great detail on how the images were retrieved. They wanted to know, did the federal government directly order the satellite company to not provide an image? The researchers discovered that in 1992, one US Land Remote Sensing Policy Act made it legal for civilian entities to receive commercial satellite imagery from vendors.

The researchers had an interesting plan: to sell the image they retrieved to Google for 1$. Due to a grant from the Polyfil Foundation and support from Eyebeam, they were able to pay for the satellite data.

An excellent, inspiring investigative report has leaked into the mainstream media, encouraging people to think harder, so it seems that money was well spent.

In conclusion, Google essentially gave the usual narrative and insisted it was just an accident, the images not being updated. Now it’s updated, and who knows what the military does there.

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