Science Balloon Attacked by the Military?
It appears the United States military may have shot down a $12 32″ Pico hobby balloon with a $400,000. missile prompting a public inquiry and FBI investigation into what may have caused this superpower showdown.
The FBI has already spoken with the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade, a hobbyist group based near Chicago, to investigate whether their research balloon may have been a contributing factor. The Brigade is best known for their yearly hot air balloon rides, but launched an experimental project last month involving small polyethylene balloons that are tethered to the ground and carry an array of scientific instruments. While it is unclear whether these balloons were responsible for inciting the US military’s actions, they have become one of the prime suspects in this ongoing investigation.
The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade has issued a statement apologizing for any distress or disruption that might have been caused by the launch of their balloons. They also clarified that all safety protocols were followed during the launch and explained that their balloons were operating within FAA regulations.
In response to the incident, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper released a statement saying he had ordered a review of how such incidents are handled in order to ensure proper protocol is followed. He stated that air defense authorities “must remain vigilant in identifying potential threats and react appropriately,” acknowledging that mistakes can be made during times of heightened vigilance.
At this time, no further information about what may have triggered the U.S.’s use of fighter jets has been released by either party involved in the incident. It remains unclear if any criminal charges will be filed against either group involved in this strange superpower showdown.
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