SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

Amateur balloonist group from Illinois says small balloon last reported over Alaska ‘missing in action’

Feb 17, 2023, 7:00 AM

President Joe Biden speaks about the Chinese surveillance balloon and other unidentified objects sh...

President Joe Biden speaks about the Chinese surveillance balloon and other unidentified objects shot down by the U.S. military, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

   (CNN) — An Illinois-based club of amateur balloonists says one of its small balloons is “missing in action” after last reporting its location over Alaska on Saturday, the same day the US military shot down an unidentified object in the same region.

While the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB) has not blamed the US government for taking out one of its 32-inch-wide “Pico Balloons,” the group of hobbyists notes in a post on its blog that its last transmission near a small island off the west coast of Alaska occurred after the balloon had been airborne for more than four months and circled the globe seven times.

“Pico Balloon K9YO last reported on February 11th at 00:48 zulu near Hagemeister Island after 123 days and 18 hours of flight,” the NIBBB blog post, dated February 14, states.

CNN’s attempts to reach the NIBBB have been unsuccessful.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) deferred questions to the National Security Council for identification of the objects and had no additional information, according to a spokeswoman for US Northern Command and NORAD.

CNN has reached out to the NSC for comment.

The possibility that this recreational balloon could be one of the three unidentified objects shot down by the US military was first reported on Thursday by Aviation Week.

Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden delivered his first public remarks on the topic and acknowledged that “the intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions.”

Pico ballooning combines high-altitude balloons with amateur or Ham radios.

“We send a small transmitter, with GPS tracking and antenna on a balloon filled with Hydrogen, rising to 47,000 feet, and travelling with the speed of the Jetstream,” the NIBBB website explains.

The NIBBB says its members, ranging from kids to adults, are responsible for launching more than 25 balloons since the group’s inception in June 2021.

“Six ended up in trees (we found a fix for that). Six balloons never said hello (we think we have a fix for that). We had eight balloons that traveled the United States. We had nine balloons that left the United States. We had three balloons that almost made it around the world. We have two balloons flying around the world,” the group said on its website.

It remains to be seen where Pico Balloon K9YO will be found.

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Amateur balloonist group from Illinois says small balloon last reported over Alaska ‘missing in action’