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Gingrich falsely claims US could “scoop balloon out of air”

Along with Bill O’Reilly, novelist Newt Gingrich has led the effort to rewrite American history, and now he wants to rewrite physics and US military capability.  Gingrich insists the US government has the equipment and capability to have captured, safely and intact, the 120+ foot-long Chinese surveillance balloon traveling at 60,000 feet whose cargo alone weighs an estimated 2,000 pounds.  Where this capability exists is questionable:  at one time, the US military ran a program using the Fulton system (also known as Skyhook) to extract individuals using a guide balloon to lift a rope, tied to the extractee, that was caught by a specially-equipped cargo plane, typically a C-130, but those lifts were smaller weight, lower altitude and had one point connected to the ground; Fulton was last acknowledged to be used in a 1982 training exercise in which a serviceman was killed.

Another process, used to capture small cylinders of dust sample, allowed planes operated by NASA to catch a small canopy parachute as it fell to Earth after reentry; it succeeded about half the time.  (The US military reportedly used a similar process–with similar success–to capture top-secret satellite film, a process that has not been used since the age of digital transmissions.) Gingrich apparently believes the technology to capture a 15-pound film canister on a 8-foot parachute is the same as that needed to stop a one-ton platform on a 120-foot-long weather balloon.

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