Chinese Spy Balloon Shot Down: What We Know So Far

By Tara Thompson

On February 1st, President Biden ordered the military to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon as soon as possible, which ended up being 3 days later about six miles off the coast of South Carolina. Gregory Falco, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Civil and Systems Engineering reported “shooting this thing down was just a show of national pride more so than anything, because I’m not sure what we’re gonna grab out of this.” 

After close inspection, Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command told reporters that the Chinese balloon shot down over the weekend was 200 feet tall and the payload attached to it was similar in size to a regional jetliner, weighing more than 2,000 pounds. A senior defense official said “I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us… I can’t go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.” 

US Navy and Coast Guard ships and divers are now working together to recover as much debris from the balloon as they can. On Monday, defense officials said debris had been found in an area that measures roughly 1,500m (4,920 ft) by 1,500m, although material is spread over a much larger area. Efforts to recover the balloon’s equipment have been complicated due to poor weather conditions and the possibility that the debris may include dangerous and hazardous materials such as explosives or battery components.

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