Chinese Balloon: An Identified Flying Object

Image (Credit): Chinese balloon and jet airplane sharing the sky over North Carolina. (The Dallas Morning News)

It is not clear why China chose to test the U.S. this past week with a surveillance balloon, but it ended yesterday with the Air Force shooting down the device. These Chinese balloons have been seen all over the world, and this is not the first time they have visited the U.S. (having been sighted under the last president as well). What a balloon can do that a satellite cannot is somewhat unclear at the moment, and whether this action this puts our own surveillance craft observing China’s territory at risk is anyone’s guess.

It is unlikely this was an innocent error on the part of the Chinese, though the head of the China Meteorological Administration was fired anyway. NASA was even called in to give it opinion on the balloon, which makes sense given NASA’s experience with Earth-monitoring balloons.

And what about the U.S. Space Force? Would this fall under their jurisdiction? Does the Air Force end and the Space Force begin so many miles up?

The Space Force posted a press release on the balloon incidence, but was silent about its role in the matter. On its website, the Space Force seems to rely on the U.S. Air Force for quite a bit:

As a new military service, the U.S. Space Force will leverage the Department of the Air Force for more than 75 percent of its enabling functions to significantly reduce cost and avoid duplication. The Department of the Air Force will provide support functions that includes logistics, base operating support, IT support, audit agencies, etc. 

Maybe that support includes the necessary muscle to take down balloons.

It is somewhat amusing that all these years the government has been saying UFO sightings related to silly, harmless “weather balloons,” and now we are sending military fighter jets to take on threatening “weather balloons.” We are living in strange times.

Image (Credit): A NASA Super Pressure Balloon just before launch from Wanaka, New Zealand. (NASA)