US Fleet Command posted several photos on its Facebook page showing large debris from the balloon being towed by a boat. The sailors salvaging the trash on Sunday were part of the Navy’s explosives specialist team. The device is inspected to determine if it is a spy device. China has repeatedly claimed that the airship was for civilian use and entered the United States due to force majeure. It was purely an accident. The discovery of the balloon sparked a diplomatic crisis, with Secretary of State Anthony Brinken canceling a weekend trip to China, citing “irresponsible conduct”.
The balloon was retrieved off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a day after being shot down by a fighter jet. The navy said the debris was spread over seven miles (11km) of the Atlantic Ocean, and two naval ships – including one with a heavy crane for recovery – were sent to the area. However, the photos reveal the piles of balloon material were able to be pulled aboard by hand. US defense officials first announced they were tracking the strange object on Thursday and waited until it was safely over water before shooting it down.
On Friday, the Pentagon announced that a second Chinese spy balloon had been sighted. This time over Latin America, sightings were reported over Costa Rica and Venezuela. The Colombian Air Force said it spotted an identified object believed to be a balloon in the country’s airspace above 55,000 feet on February 3. It tracks the object until it leaves airspace and poses no threat to national security.