An update on the balloon saga

Let’s start with the balloon whose story is the most clear, i.e. the Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US this month. That balloon was shot down over the ocean off the coast of South Carolina. You may have seen photos of portions of the balloon being pulled into a boat. These images were taken last week.


Today the DOD released even more photos of the ongoing recovery effort.

All of this material appears to be part of the skin of the balloon which was a couple hundred feet across. But the bigger news is that we’ve now recovered a major piece of the payload that was hanging under the balloon.

A crane ship on the scene where a Chinese surveillance balloon went down in waters off South Carolina has raised from the ocean bottom a significant portion of the balloon’s payload, a U.S. official said Monday.

Officials have said the payload measured as much as 30-feet-long and had all of craft’s tech gear and antennas.

So the good news is that we’ve probably a good chunk of the Chinese spy device, minus the solar panels that likely broke off when it hit the water. Now our experts will take a look and we’ll have a very good idea what this balloon was designed to capture. But as you’re also aware, the US has shot down 3 more balloons (or objects) in the past three days. Here’s a map showing where each one was found (2nd image below).


This evening CNN is reporting some additional details about the balloon shot down Saturday (Feb. 11) over Canada:

The unidentified flying object shot down in Canadian airspace on Saturday appeared to be a “small, metallic balloon with a tethered payload below it,” according to a Pentagon memo sent to lawmakers on Monday and obtained by CNN…

The object crossed near “US sensitive sites” before it was shot down, the memo said…

The memo said that “recovery/exploitation” efforts were underway to retrieve the object shot down in Canada’s Yukon territory, noting that both US and Canadian officials were attempting to identify debris…

“It should not be assumed that the events of the past few days are connected,” the Pentagon noted in the memo.

So possibly not connected to China or to spying in general. It may just be that, in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon, NORAD is now looking for them.

A defense official said that the radar used by North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was adjusted after the initial high-altitude balloon sighting. “We continue to refine detection settings, and that won’t stop just because we have identified these smaller objects,” the official said.


Maybe we’ll get an idea what the Feb. 11 balloon was about if they can find the debris. Canada is taking the lead on that investigation but the FBI is working with them. The object shot down over Lake Huron yesterday is also mentioned in the same memo. It descended slowly into the lake and may be recoverable as well. However, both balloons were much smaller than the Chinese spy balloon so there’s a lot less material to find.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said today at the White House that, for the moment, we don’t know what the other three objects/balloons were or where they came from. He was also asked if this is the new normal:

Finally, China is trying to turn this around, claiming the US has sent multiple spy balloons over their territory:

China said Monday that high-altitude balloons belonging to the United States had flown over its airspace without permission more than 10 times since early last year.

“It is nothing rare for U.S. balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular news briefing.

“The U.S. should first reflect upon itself and change course instead of smearing other countries,” he added…

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby responded on Monday by saying, “We are not flying surveillance balloons over China.”


I’m sure we’re keeping all sorts of eyes and ears on China all the time. And who knows, maybe we did send a balloon at some point. But I also know that China is embarrassed about this story and is probably desperate for any way to turn their obvious failure into some kind of story where they can claim to be equally outraged.

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