After shooting down a giant balloon, reportedly of Chinese origin, US fighter jets downed three other balloons over North America, Initially called 'objects' by the white house, these high-altitude balloons were 'much smaller than the first one.'
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said both of those "- one over Canada, one over Alaska "- were at 40,000 feet" and were determined to pose a risk to civil aviation. President Joe Biden said Thursday that the U.S. is updating its guidelines for monitoring and reacting to unknown aerial objects.
Officials were unable to recover any of the remains of those three balloons, and late Friday the U.S. military announced it had ended the search for the objects that were shot down near Deadhorse, Alaska, and over Lake Huron on Feb. 10 and 12.
$12 balloon or spy balloon?
After the Chinese mega-balloon (it was 200-feet tall) was shot down, attention turned to the skies and it turns out there are many balloons floating around above the country. But why?
Humans have hooked bombs to balloons since at least the 1840s, mainly for warfare with balloon-borne bombs or soldiers on-board flying balloons crossing over enemy lines. In times of peace, however, these balloons are mostly used for weather forecasting, tracking or quite simply, recreational purposes.
High-altitude balloons also help scientists peer out into space from near the edges of the Earth's atmosphere. NASA runs a national balloon program office, helping coordinate launches from east Texas and other sites for universities, foreign groups and other research programs. School science classes launch balloons, wildlife watchers launch balloons.
Commercial interests also send balloons up — such as Google's effort to provide internet service via giant balloons.
These pursuits could be "college fraternities with nothing better to do and $10,000,” joked U.S. Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, according to an AP report.
The Alaskan balloon - what could it have been?
Among hobby balloonists, there are suspicions that a balloon declared missing by the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Brigade was one of the ones shot down, as the publication Aviation Week Network first reported. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday the administration was not able to confirm those reports.
And if this is true, such balloons could be as cheap as $12, and the US may have spent hundred of thousands of dollars with the missile used to shoot it down.