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Mon, Feb 20, 2023

Object Downed by USAF Possibly Launched by Hobbyists

“May'st Hear the Merry Din"

A group of aerial hobbyists in northern Illinois is contending with the daunting possibility that an unidentified flying object shot out of U.S. skies last week by a $400,000 AIM-9 Sidewinder missile fired from a $334-million Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor might have been their $12 balloon.

On Wednesday, 15 February 2023 the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade declared one of its exploratory pico-balloons had gone missing.

In the most rudimentary sense, a pico-balloon is a three-foot mylar-foil party balloon filled partially with ultra-pure helium gas. Commonly equipped with a single, 13-gram, solar-powered Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) transmitter, the gossamer contraptions are designed to travel aloft for long distances—if not at excessively high altitudes—and not be recovered. On many occasions, pico-balloons—which are functionally exempt from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airspace regulations insomuch as they mass less than six-pounds—have repeatedly circumnavigated the globe before finally descending. What’s more, as they can be purchased for as little as $12, the per-mile costs of messing about with pico-balloons are nigh unbeatable.

The last transmission made by the pico-balloon belonging to the Bottlecap Balloon Brigade was reportedly broadcast on 10 February 2023 from a point 38,910-feet above Alaska’s north coast. The balloon, at that time, was moving east toward Canada’s Yukon Territory.

The following day, U.S. officials alleged an F-22 fighter jet had downed an object floating over the Yukon Territory at an approximate altitude of FL400.

That pico-balloons bear a resemblance to the unidentified objects described and ostensibly shot down by U.S. military aircraft over Alaska, the Yukon, and Lake Huron is noteworthy. That a $12 party-favor may have been pursued and engaged by an aircraft that costs $70,000-per-hour to operate is an irony worthy of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

The search for the object downed over the Yukon remains ongoing, but—owing to the remoteness of the locale and the severity of the Northern Canadian winter—is expected to play out over a protracted period of time.

To the subject of the Yukon Territory aerial mystery object, a representative of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) remarked: “The conditions are extremely challenging with a very large search area, spanning three-thousand-square-kilometers, and consisting of rugged and mountainous terrain with a high-level of snowpack and harsh winter conditions.”

FMI: www.defense.gov

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