The US government site that conspiracy theorists blame with some of the biggest natural disasters in recent history is set to close this summer. HAARP, a military site studying the atmosphere, is no longer needed by the country, it has said.
Conspiracy theorists claim that the US can use the facility to modify weather, disable satellites and control minds. It has been blamed for causing freak weather, natural disasters and diseases, as well as industrial calamities such as the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
They point to a patent filed by a key scientist on the project, Bernard Eastlund, shortly before his death. That suggests that weather modification and control may be possible using technology like HAARP. Those theories have led to hearings in the European Parliament and the Alaska state legislature, prompted by environmental concerns about the site.
But before its website closed down in 2013, the site’s spokespeople said that no secret research was conducted at the base. “HAARP is not classified," the website said. "There are no classified documents pertaining to HAARP.”
The site is such a magnet to conspiracy theorists because its “purpose seems deeply mysterious to the scientifically uninformed,” popular scientist David Naiditch has said.
The US government claims that the site is used to study natural processes in the ionosphere — a region of the upper atmosphere — in the hope of building better radio communications technology. It also looks to develop technology using those processes, it said. The site has been used to create artificial northern lights (aurora borealis).
HAARP will shut down after a final research project in mid-June. That will be conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), another favourite of conspiracy theorists.
The site costs $5m a year to run, according to reports in the Anchorage Daily News. Work began on HAARP in 1993, and the current Ionespheric Research Instrument was built in 2008. It cost more than $280m to build, and is spread across 30 acres.
Filming for an X-Files episode based on the site was where Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan met the show’s star, Bryan Cranston. Cranston’s performance in that episode was what allowed him to get the series’ star role, as Walter White.