Monday, June 02, 2008

NASA: 'UFO' Was Balloon

Flying Saucer Cartoon

Teardrop-shaped object was a 34.43 million-cubic-foot experimental balloon carrying 8,000 pounds of payload

     (Albuquerque Journal (NM) (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jun. 1--Note to sky watchers: The shimmering, silver object in the Saturday evening sky was not a UFO.

At least that's what NASA says.

The teardrop-shaped object was actually a 34.43 millioncubic-foot experimental balloon carrying 8,000 pounds of payload, said Debbie Fairbrother, chief technologist for the NASA balloon program.

NASA's Balloon Office was testing the balloon's flight pattern, because NASA has had difficulty in the past getting a balloon to lift 8,000 pounds, Fairbrother said.

The balloon prompted several calls to the Journal from people inquiring whether it was a weather balloon or if it was visitors from another planet.

The 440-foot wide, 378-foot tall balloon was launched from Fort Sumner just around 9 a.m., Fairbrother said.

It was flying more than 100,000 feet above the ground Saturday evening, and the setting sun lit up the balloon in contrast to the darkening sky, she said.

It was expected to fly through the night until this morning, when researchers would remotely drop the payload, ripping the balloon, she said.

A parachute will ease the payload to the ground in western New Mexico, where teams will collect the payload and destroyed balloon, she said.

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