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Chinese Spy Balloon Over the US
An alleged spy balloon spotted over the US has been the center of a diplomatic crisis between the US and China. The US Defense officials have claimed that the balloon, seen flying above sensitive areas in recent days, is in fact a “high-altitude surveillance” device. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has stated that the balloon is a “civilian airship” for research purposes that had deviated from its planned route.
The Purpose of the Balloon
The Pentagon has labeled the object as an “intelligence gathering” balloon, while Beijing says it is mainly used for weather research. The size of the balloon is roughly the same as three school buses, and it is flying at an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18,600 meters). The balloon’s maneuverability has been a subject of interest, with Scientific American reporting that it is unusual for such a large balloon to be able to change its course so easily.
Why was the Balloon not Shot Down?
The US officials have stated that the potential damage from falling debris outweighs the risk of the balloon itself, which they say does not have the ability to gather more intelligence than spy satellites in low Earth orbit, which China already uses. The balloon is moving eastward over the central US and the US continues to monitor its progress.
Do the US Military and NASA Use Balloons?
The US military uses aerostats or tethered airships, which are referred to as “blimps” by the public. Meanwhile, NASA uses helium balloons for its scientific measurements, as part of its Ultra Long Duration program.
Do Pilots See Helium Balloons?
According to a private pilot, it is possible for pilots to see balloons and other objects outside of their window. However, it depends on the altitude at which they are flying.
Is there a Second Chinese Spy Balloon?
The Pentagon has confirmed the sighting of a second Chinese surveillance balloon, which was seen transiting over South America.
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- “February 3, 2023 Suspected Chinese spy balloon flies over the US – CNN” https://edition.cnn.com/politics/live-news/suspected-chinese-balloon-us/index.html
- “Furor Over Chinese Spy Balloon Leads to a Diplomatic Crisis” https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/03/world/asia/china-spy-balloon.html
- “Why the US hasn’t shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance … https://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/03/politics/us-monitoring-chinese-balloon/index.html
- “China balloon: Many questions about suspected spy in the sky | AP News” https://apnews.com/article/politics-united-states-government-antony-blinken-china-b1b03193b7abeb7bbeca169bbc7c2c53
- “Chinese Spy Balloon Has Unexpected Maneuverability – Scientific American” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/chinese-spy-balloon-has-unexpected-maneuverability/
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- “Ultra Long Duration – Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility – NASA” https://www.csbf.nasa.gov/balloons.html
- “Do pilots ever see balloons or other objects outside of their window … https://www.quora.com/Do-pilots-ever-see-balloons-or-other-objects-outside-of-their-window-Animals
- “2nd Chinese surveillance balloon spotted over South America … https://abc7news.com/second-chinese-spy-balloon-latin-america-surveillance-china/12768114/
A second Chinese surveillance balloon has also been spotted over South America, according to the Pentagon. This development has led to a diplomatic crisis between the US and China, with tensions rising over the alleged spy balloons.T
he balloon is about the size of three school buses and is traveling east over the US at an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18,600 meters). The Pentagon has called the object an “intelligence gathering” balloon, but Beijing claims it is mainly used for weather research and had strayed off course.
The US military uses aerostats, or tethered airships, for surveillance and intelligence gathering, which are known by the acronym JLENS. However, this particular Chinese balloon has caused concern among US officials due to its unexpected maneuverability.
Despite the suspicions surrounding the balloon’s true purpose, the US has not yet taken action to shoot it down. Officials have determined that the potential damage of falling debris outweighs the risk of the balloon itself, which they said does not have the ability to bring in more intelligence than spy satellites in low Earth orbit, which China already uses.