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The true purpose of China's spy balloons has seemingly been revealed by a top Russian scientist after a number of them have been shot down.
A series of balloons from China – thought to be spy balloons – have plagued the US and Canada over the last week or so.
And while it is now thought that the balloons have been spotted over five continents, the leaders in the UK are sufficiently worried enough that a review has been launched.
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But China's only comments on the balloons is that it was released by a random local who was monitoring the weather.
However, speaking to pro-Kremlin – and probably pro-China – news outlet Moskovskij Komsomolets, the chief researcher at the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vyacheslav Vdovin claimed that the spy balloons have one very specific purpose.
Mr Vdovin, who is also the vice-president of the World Federation of Scientists, said: “Space exploration.
“The fact is that the atmosphere seriously interferes with the study of stars and planets, and flying at an altitude above 20–30 km actually saves us from its influence, and we can look into space and study its various objects.
“Remote sensing of the Earth from above…is an interesting task for a balloon, which consumes quite a bit of energy and costs much less than not only a spacecraft, but even an aircraft, which is also used for remote sensing purposes.”
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He went on to claim that the solar panels on the balloon – which he called big “ears” – could have been used to send specific data about wind speed, temperature and pressure back to Chinese leaders.
However, the expert was asked what kind of espionage information a balloon such as this could have been obtained by China.
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Mr Vdovin said: “It is unlikely that they could get much more information than with the help of space satellites, which are now equipped with a fantastic set of equipment that allows you to see, if not stars on military uniforms, then aircraft, cars, tractors, tanks – one hundred percent.
“Therefore, it is probably not entirely logical to launch a poorly controlled balloon for spy purposes, although its low speed compared to satellites and aircraft is a good plus for remote sensing and other measurements.”
He also claimed that what the United States and China have said about the balloon is “fairy tales” from both sides.
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