Chasing the possible Chinese balloon over Missouri

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A giant balloon believed to have originated in China was sighted over Billings, Montana on Wednesday. US officials are tracking it as it flies over the continental United States. Chances are you’ll be able to see it flying over the Midwest soon if it stays airborne.

A lot of people are nervous right now. The National Weather Service in Kansas City received reports around noon a high-altitude balloon visible on the horizon. They say the object is not a US National Weather Service balloon. It is currently traveling 60,000 feet with 75 mph southeast winds.

Possible trajectory of the balloon

Meteorologist Chris Higgins estimates the object to be somewhere between Jefferson City and Springfield, Missouri, around 1 p.m. Friday. This is an estimate based on altitude and airspeed. The balloon can also be steerable and could change direction.

The balloon could be anywhere south of the Missouri River to the heel of Missouri this afternoon. It could be approaching Nashville, Tennessee, tonight. You might be able to see it from a great distance because the balloon is so high in the atmosphere.

The high-altitude winds shown on the upper Springfield and Kansas City soundings both show these 75 mph (65+ kts) winds near the top of the sounding.

China claims the balloon was a weather research “airship” that went off course. The Pentagon flatly denied it — and China’s claim that the balloon, about the size of two school buses, is not used for surveillance and has limited navigational capabilities.

The balloon was first seen over sensitive military sites in Montana. By noon it was over the heartland of the central United States, moving east. Officials said it will likely remain in US airspace for several days. Whiteman Air Force Base is located in central Missouri. It is part of the US strategic nuclear deterrent program.

President Joe Biden declined to comment on the matter when questioned at a business event. Two challengers to 2024 re-election, former President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador to the United Nations, said the US should shoot down the balloon immediately. Chasing the possible Chinese balloon over Missouri

Sarah Y. Kim

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