The United States Department of Defense has released a selfie by a pilot showing a high-resolution image of the Chinese spy balloon before it was shot down.

The picture was taken from the cockpit of a U-2 spy plane as military leaders tracked the high-altitude balloon’s progress over the continental US.

The suspected Chinese spy balloon was initially spotted on January 28 and was taken down by the US military off the coast of South Carolina on February 4. A pilot took the selfie on February 3, when the balloon was floating near Kansas.

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Earlier this month, a senior State Department official said that fly-bys “revealed that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations.”

The balloon wasn’t shot down over land due to its size and the possible damage it could do upon impact on the ground.

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A few days later, a selfie taken in the cockpit had ‘gained legendary status in both North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Pentagon.

General Glen Van Herck, commander of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said the balloon was 200 feet (61 meters) tall, and its payload weighed thousands of pounds.

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The officials added that the balloon was unable to collect crucial intelligence, partly because of US measures.

The U-2 flies at high altitudes over 70,000 feet during reconnaissance and surveillance missions with glider-like characteristics, said the Air Force. It has a single state. Pilots are required to wear a full-pressure suit similar to those worn by astronauts.

The recovery of the balloon started after it was shot down on February 4 and was concluded on February 17. Pieces of the debris were taken to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory in Virginia for examination. Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said Wednesday that the payload of the balloon had been recovered.