The US Defense Department has released a new photo acquired by a U-2 pilot of a Chinese spy balloon flying over the US earlier this month.
The spy plane pilot took the selfie while flying above the balloon, and it shows the plane's shadow on the airship and the payload it transported across the United States. CNN was the first to report on the image's existence.
The balloon was discovered on 28 January and was shot down by US forces off the coast of South Carolina on 4 February.
Earlier this month, a State Department source said that fly-bys "indicated that the high-altitude balloon could conduct signals intelligence collecting operations".
The government tried to cover up this as much as possible, giving different speculations such as the possibility of the balloon shot by the pilot being a student's project or other excuses.
General Glen VanHerck, commander of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, told CNN that the ballon was 200 feet (61 metres) tall and weighed thousands of pounds.
Authorities stated that the balloon was unable to acquire critical intelligence due in part to US restrictions.
According to the Air Force, the U-2 has a single seat and travels at high altitudes for reconnaissance and surveillance operations.
The balloon was sighted at more than 60,000 feet over Montana.
The balloon's recovery began on 4 February after it was deflated and was completed on 17 February. Pieces of the debris were sent to Virginia's Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory for study.
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