February 26, 2024

Opinion

A balloon shot from the sky may be from Illinois

In this photo provided by Chad Fish, a large balloon drifts above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina, with a fighter jet and its contrail seen below it, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. The balloon was struck by a missile from an F-22 fighter just off Myrtle Beach, fascinating sky-watchers across a populous area known as the Grand Strand for its miles of beaches that draw retirees and vacationers.  (Chad Fish via AP)

The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade is a hobby club with a couple dozen members – some adults, some children – who like to watch balloons circle the globe.

For $12 apiece, they buy balloons from a California manufacturer, rig them with radio transmitters and send them skyward, Aviation Week reported. One of their projects has circled the globe seven times.

But the U.S. Air Force may have this group of Land of Lincoln nerds in its crosshairs.

Scott Reeder

It seems one of the club’s projects disappeared off the coast of Alaska, the same day the U.S. Government announced shooting down an unknown object in the same area.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters the object had been traveling at an altitude of 40,000 feet and was about the size of a car.

But they didn’t know what the object was, its origin or purpose. President Joe Biden ordered it shot down.

So, a $216 million F22 jet loaded with $433,000 missiles was sent to intercept the object and send it crashing to the earth.

When I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why are we shooting at things if we don’t know what they are?”

It would be like if I saw something running across my backyard in the middle of the night and I pulled out my gun and started blasting away.

I could be arrested – and rightly so. After all, it’s stupid to shoot at something if you don’t know what it is. But our government didn’t do it just once. It did it three times – in a week’s time – in the airspace over Alaska and Canada.

Each time the Pentagon reported not knowing what they destroyed. If you are going to fire a $433,000 missile at something, shouldn’t you at least find out what it is first?

For the price of those three missiles, we could have bought more than 338,000 school lunches, 75,882 library books or provided a year’s tuition for 258 community college students.

Talk about money going up in smoke.

A White House spokesperson felt the need to say that none of the unidentified flying objects, UFOs, is believed to be extraterrestrial in origin.

Of course, what launched this stratospheric level of stupidity is the previous week a Chinese balloon carrying a payload the size of two school buses was allowed to drift across the continental United States.

The Pentagon said it was a spy balloon. China says it was an off-course weather balloon.

Republicans in Congress were quick to condemn Biden for allowing China to violate our “national sovereignty.” The president responded to the ballooning controversy by ordering it shot down – after it had already crossed the entire country.

Back on the farm, we’d call that shutting the gate after the hog ran out.

But in all seriousness, our nation sends spy satellites over China and they send them over our country. Is a balloon in the upper reaches of the atmosphere all that different?

And even if it were, does it justify shooting down three other objects that don’t appear to pose any military threat? In fact, one may well be from Illinois.

If that is indeed the case, no Illinois balloon has conjured so much attention since Lauren Staab stabbed the giant inflatable rat outside her family’s Springfield funeral home last year.

But what of the Illinois youngsters who launched their balloon aloft?

Instead of learning about wind currents and radio waves, these junior scientists got a lesson in international politics.

If they want their $12 back, they should send a bill to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at sreeder@illinoistimes.com.

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at: sreeder@illinoistimes.com.