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U.S. Releases Photo of Chinese Balloon Captured by U-2 Spy Plane

The image was taken as it traveled over the continental United States

The Pentagon on Wednesday released imagery of a U-2 spy plane soaring over the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that transited the mainland United States this month, providing a new glimpse of the information U.S. officials gathered about the craft before shooting it down over the Atlantic Ocean.

The photograph appears to have been taken from the cockpit of the single-seat U-2 Dragon Lady, a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft in service since the 1950s. U-2s can cruise at altitudes greater than 70,000 feet, allowing it to look down on the Chinese airship that officials said had reached heights of 60,000 to 65,000 feet.

The image shows an Air Force pilot, clad in a pressurized suit and helmet, maneuvering the aircraft as the balloon passes below. Large solar panels attached to the airship appear to be visible, with equipment strung from a canopy that U.S. military officials have described as 200 feet tall. The craft's payload was estimated to be the size of two to three buses.

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