PARKVILLE, Mo. -- One CIA historian says what was happening in Area 51 was very secret and very cool.
"It wasn't aliens. It was just us," Dr. Brent Geary said.
He visited Park University on Wednesday to break down secrets in and around the highly classified U.S. Air Force Base.
"We were building very fast planes that flew very high, and it lead to a spike in UFO sightings," Geary said.
Those planes are known as U-2 and the A-12 OXCART. Engineers, pilots and staff spent the 1950's and 1960's building and testing these fast monsters to fight the soviets.
The U-2 came first flying 70,000 feet in the air. Our commercial planes today only reach half that!
The A-12 can get up to 90,000 feet -- that's three times higher than many airliners today.
"Air traffic controllers, they’re seeing something at 70,000 feet in the sky," Geary said. "No-one has told air traffic controllers there was something 70,000 feet in the sky. So now they’re reporting what they’re seeing."
With a growing number of reported UFO sightings from air traffic controllers, pilots and everyday people, the Air Force investigated.
Through Project "Blue Book" they found out the so called "flying saucers" were actually U-2 planes. And in order to protect the highly classified program, "the Air Force released cover stories," Geary said.
They attributed the sightings to natural phenomenons, like ice crystals and temperature aversions.
"The fact that it was shrouded in secrecy, for good reasons. it needed to be shrouded in secrecy to hide it from the Soviets. It contributed to the mystique around Area 51," he said.
After listening to the lecture, Debra Sheffer, a Park University history professor and Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said it has altered what she thinks about Area 51 in a more reasonable way -- that it was us, not aliens.
But she said aliens could still be out there.
"I honestly didn’t know what it was," Sheffer said. "I don’t know if I ever thought it was aliens. I went out to Albuquerque one year and got the beer that has the alien on it. So I know it’s a big, a big thing, and it’s fun to think about and it’s also scary to think about. They could be out there."
"I feel like 50/50," Park University student Ozodo Narzullaeva said. "Maybe there were aliens, but maybe there weren’t."
Some Park University students disagree.
"You hear a lot about it. Some people believe in it. I personally don’t," Park University graduate student Stefanie Rettenbacher said.
During the Q&A, someone questioned that only about 50% to the sightings were government planes. So what makes up the other 50 percent?
"I don't have any idea what the other half are," Geary said.
An audience member replied, "Area 52!"
"Yeah, Area 52," Geary said laughing. "Yeah, that presentation's not quite ready yet for the public."
Next time you see something flying high in the sky that looks like a saucer, Geary asks you to think again because it's probably man-made.