The “Spy Balloon” explained




On February 2, 2023, NBC News alerted citizens of a balloon floating over the United States. Shortly after, on February 4, it was shot down by the Air Force off the coast of South Carolina at 2:39 P.M. The balloon was first spotted over Billings, Montana in February, but it had traveled a long way. 

It was an enormous white orb which was 200 feet in diameter. It floated about 60,000 feet above the U.S. It weighed about a couple thousand pounds.

On the other side of the world in Beijing, China, foreign ministry officials said that the balloon was a civilian scientific achievement designed for meteorological purposes that blew away. It was said to be affected by the weather, causing it to unexpectedly drift into U.S. airspace since it has very little self-steering capabilities.

However, U.S. citizens are not convinced, as the device flew over a military base, and have begun to theorize that it was a spy balloon created to specifically observe America from above. Kelly Tieperman, a social studies teacher at Centennial High School, asserts that the balloon was used for spying purposes. He says that it was hovering over the U.S. because of the “rivalry between China and America” from the past few years, and because of the fact that the U.S. is a larger country, which gives them more territories. Tieperman also believes the Chinese may want to spy on the U.S. in order to “gather information and intelligence” and gain a competitive advantage over the states. 

One way this problem could have been solved by the U.S. would be to have a better understanding and relationship with China, and open dialogue could be the answer. By talking openly with China, they could resolve the issue. Tieperman notes that although the possibility of being spied on by the balloon may be frightening, “it is not going to start a war.” 

With a very similar perspective, Jeremy Whitaker, a world history teacher at Centennial, agrees with Tieperman’s idea that China was spying on the U.S. with the balloon, stating that “China wanted to see what the U.S. was doing, especially because the balloon went over the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.”

With this evidence, Whitaker notes that China would want to be seen as the world’s most powerful competition. They might be trying to “remind us that they are better than us” and would like to “see spots where we are weak and vulnerable.”

Whitaker mentioned the media being a real challenge, he explained that because the media is reporting that other countries are spying on the U.S. The U.S. retaliates by frequently spying on other countries using satellites. At this time, both teachers think that the states should have a better relationship with China. A suggestion from Whitaker was to have agreements with exchanging ideas, because the two countries are not actively exchanging ideas, and the U.S. is misunderstanding China and its system. However, since China is such an important trade partner to the U.S, this lack of communication is a potential threat to the U.S. economy. By having a strong relationship with China, trade relations would also be improved, causing our government to have a sense of security. This will lead people to understand the leaders who are important trade partners and helpers and are vital to maintaining world peace.


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