Google is trying to “bring the internet to everyone,” and per its Loon program, the revolutionary idea for doing so is to use solar-powered balloons that float in the stratosphere. They’re currently testing the balloons in New Zealand, but it seems that an early prototype of one of those balloons went rogue a while ago, and has since prompted UFO sightings across the U.S.
In October of 2012, folks in Pike County, Kentucky spotted a bright object zooming across the sky. Even an amateur astronomer was baffled by the sight.
Google took responsibility for the would-be UFO sighting, acknowledging that the object was one of their balloon prototypes that “went rogue.” The balloon was launched in California on what was supposed to be a short test flight, but it malfunctioned, which rendered it uncontrollable via remote. Like a spirited teenager, the balloon began the cross-country trip, reaching heights of 60,000 feet and prompting calls to the police and the excitement of conspiracy theorists everywhere. The balloon’s trip ended 11 days later, in Canada.
It took Google about a year to cop to owning the “UFO,” largely because, in order to do so, they had to reveal their Loon project. But UFO enthusiasts remained dubious, given the lack of resemblance between photos of Google’s current balloons and the photos captured by people in Kentucky.
Now, Google is saying that the reason for the discrepancy is that the rogue balloon was a new prototype called the Falcon 11, which is a 120-foot-long cylinder constructed with transparent mylar. During its 11-day trip, Google lost track of the balloon and relied on the UFO sightings to find it. “If you want to start a secret stratospheric program, and one project goes rogue, you can outsource your tracking to the UFO guys,” said Google X’s Rapid Evaluation team leader. Yeah, that’s always a great plan.