The United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it floated off the country's southeastern coast Saturday, U.S. officials said.
Eyes were locked on the skies Saturday as a suspected Chinese spy balloon passed over the U.S. Eastern Seaboard — where local authorities warned civilians against taking potshots with rifles — before it was shot down when it drifted over the Atlantic Ocean.
Software engineer and storm chaser Brian Branch captured photographs of the balloon high above western North Carolina just hours before it was shot down.
He could see a payload hanging from the round, white balloon, which officials have said was about the size of three school buses.
It was shot down off the Carolina coast Saturday afternoon and an operation was launched to recover the debris. The Biden administration had previously hesitated to shoot the balloon because of risks to people on the ground from falling debris.
“I’m kind of surprised they didn’t shoot it down over Montana," Branch said.
There had been reports of sightings throughout upstate South Carolina, including Greenville and Spartanburg, and suburban Charlotte in North Carolina.
The maneuverable balloon entered U.S. airspace over Alaska early this week and it wasn't acknowledged by government officials until Thursday, a day after commercial flights were temporarily halted at the airport in Billings, Montana and people on the ground saw the balloon seemingly loitering high above the city.
China said it was a weather research vessel blown off course, a claim rejected by U.S. officials who said the craft had been over areas of Montana where nuclear missiles are siloed.
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