The selfie taken by a U-2 spy plane pilot who flew over the Chinese spy balloon that sent the US into a frenzy has been released by the Pentagon.
The photo clearly shows the mysterious silver colored ball of the balloon with hanging panels underneath.
At the same time, the shadow of the American aircraft seems to be reflected in the balloon.
The photo, as reported by CNN, was allegedly taken by the pilot of the aircraft as the balloon entered US airspace at a very high altitude.
It is recalled that the spy balloon was spotted over Montana and was monitored as it traveled over the US, causing a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Beijing.
When the Chinese balloon was finally found over the Atlantic Ocean and deemed safe to shoot down, an F-22 Raptor fighter jet that had taken off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia neutralised it with a missile.
Officials also maintained that the balloon was not capable of conducting significant intelligence collection, in part because the US took steps to protect against it immediately upon spotting it.
The U-2 is a single-seat, high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft with “glider-like characteristics,” according to the Air Force. Because the planes are regularly “flown at altitudes over 70,000 feet,” pilots “must wear a full pressure suit similar to those worn by astronauts.”
Once it was over US territory, officials have argued that the benefits of gathering additional intelligence on the balloon far outweighed the risk of shooting it down over land.
The US sent up U-2 spy planes to track the balloon’s progress, according to US officials.
Recovery efforts began immediately after the balloon was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4, and were concluded on February 17. Pieces of the debris were transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in Virginia to be studied further.
Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said Wednesday that the payload of the balloon had been recovered.
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