In case you've missed the excitement, recently the US has been shooting down mysterious and suspicious objects from its airspace. So far, four objects have been downed.
The first object is believed by the US to be a Chinese spy balloon, while China denied this and claimed that it was a weather balloon blown off course. The other three were more difficult to recover, likely lying in the deep water of Lake Huron, and the wilderness of Alaska and Canada.
The White House now has a "leading explanation" into those subsequent three objects, downgrading them from possible aliens to probable commercial or research balloons.
"We haven't seen any indication or anything that points specifically to the idea that these three objects were part of the [People's Republic of China's] spying program," the White House National Security Council said at a press conference, "or that they were definitively involved in external intelligence collection efforts".
A leading explanation so far, currently being investigated by US intelligence, is that "these could be balloons that were simply tied to commercial or research entities and therefore benign."
The first balloon is still believed to be a spy balloon, according to the US. China has been spotted flying military balloons over Taiwan over the last few years, likely as a form of surveillance.
Though they might not be as sophisticated as satellites, balloons have the advantage that you can launch them a lot more silently given the lack of thousands of pounds of rocket fuel involved. They also have the advantage of unpredictability, compared to satellites which can be tracked by whoever you happen to be spying on, the director of the RAF Centre for Air and Space Power Studies, Dr David Jordan, told the Guardian.
In this case, however, one US official told CBS that they were able to track the balloon from liftoff. According to the unnamed source, the balloon took off from a base on Hainan Island and drifted towards Guam before China regained control of the balloon and it headed towards Alaska.