Monday, February 13, 2023

Maybe alien, maybe not balloons, speculation rampant about the mysterious shot down objects

 (Image: U.S. Navy assault craft working on the recovery of debris from the Chinese balloon shot down over South Carolina February 4. Credit: U.S. Navy.)

Everything about the mystery objects we’ve been shooting down remains in limbo—partly because we and the Canadians have not completed operations to recover them.

Some American officials say it’s a step too far to suggest they are alien craft from extraterrestrial sources. Others won’t rule that out.

But we won’t have clear indications until we can actually inspect the wreckage. Until then, it’s all Area 51-type speculation.

Much of the February 4 Chinese balloon debris is still reportedly off South Carolina in 50 feet of water. The item shot down February 10 over Alaskan sea ice hasn’t been recovered because of harsh Arctic winter weather. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are working to get at the debris of the February 11 shoot-down in wild country in the Yukon. And American forces are still trying to get at the debris of the February 12 object, which reportedly fell into Lake Huron in the American/Canadian Great Lakes.

Increasingly, descriptions of these devices are bizarre. One thing that seems clear is that they are very different. Early reports suggest they might not even all be balloons, although that’s what Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer believes they are, according to a Los Angeles Times report.  

They are clearly different things. They fly differently. They look different.

The Chinese balloon drifted at 60,000 feet. The Alaskan and Yukon objects at 40,000 feet, and the Lake Huron object at 20,000 feet.

Descriptions vary. The Chinese balloon appeared spherical and as big as three buses. The Alaskan balloon was the size of a small car. The Yukon object was cylindrical. The Lake Huron object octagonal with strings hanging down.

In descriptions, caution has sometimes veered into the implausible, as when Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, the commander of the Air Force’s Northern Command, was asked if they might be from outside our planet. He said, “I haven’t ruled out anything at this point.” Other Administration officials said there’s no indication of anything from outside the Earth being involved.

It makes the most sense that these would all be lighter-than-air balloons of some kind, but VanHerck in a CNN story said, essentially, not so fast.

"I'm not going to categorise them as balloons. We're calling them objects for a reason… What we are seeing is very, very small objects that produce a very, very low radar cross-section," he said. 

In a CNN report, the government also expressed caution about assuming the Alaskan, Canadian and Great Lakes objects are balloons: "These objects did not closely resemble, and were much smaller than, the [4 February] balloon and we will not definitively characterise them until we can recover the debris," CNN reported, citing a White House National Security spokesperson. 

So, what? Drones? If so, how can they stay aloft for periods long enough to be drifting slowly over hours and days?

China sought to put some perspective into the discussions, saying the United States does a lot of its own balloon work. In an Associated Press article, Wang Wenbin, an official of China’s foreign ministry, said “It is also common for U.S. balloons to illegally enter the airspace of other countries… Since last year, U.S. high-altitude balloons have illegally flown over China’s airspace more than 10 times without the approval of Chinese authorities.”

That suggests the possibility that some of the high altitude objects we’re seeing could be our own vehicles, perhaps drifting post-mission.

But the one thing we know is that the Chinese balloon downed off South Carolina was Chinese, as China has confirmed that. And initial indications are that there was American technology in its electronics package. And in response to that, the U.S. has prevented six Chinese aerospace firms from using American technology without U.S. approval.

In a Washington Post report, the White House suggested China continues to downplay its own actual intrusions into the airspace of other nations.

“This is the latest example of China scrambling to do damage control. It has repeatedly and wrongly claimed the surveillance balloon it sent over the United States was a weather balloon and to this day has failed to offer any credible explanations for its intrusion into our airspace and the airspace of others,” said White House spokeswoman Adrienne Watson. 

China says its balloon was collecting atmospheric data, not spying on the land below.

And meanwhile, China was reporting that it was getting ready to shoot down some kind of flying or drifting object over its own territory. 

“Local maritime authorities in East China's Shandong Province announced on Sunday that they had spotted an unidentified flying object in waters near the coastal city of Rizhao in the province and were preparing to shoot it down, reminding fishermen to be safe via messages,” wrote Forbes, citing China’s state-controlled Global Times.

China urged its fishermen to be alert, and to take photos of any debris that lands nearby.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2023

1 comment:

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