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High-Altitude Research Balloon from Oregon Coast Space Firm Freaks Out Portlanders

Published 09/06/23 at 9:47 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Portland, Oregon) – News stations around Portland saw their phone systems light up like crazy Wednesday morning after residents started seeing an odd but somewhat spookily-familiar sight: a giant balloon that smacked of that Chinese spy incident. That, and well, a few UFO claims as well. (Photo Doug Berger, who used a powerful zoom lens to close in

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It turns out it was a high-altitude space research balloon that was launched from the Oregon coast in the morning. As for UFO claims, there's actually a small connection to Mars here and other space-faring vehicles.

Near Space Corporation in Tillamook was the launch point early Wednesday morning, a group that has been in contract with numerous space research firms since the '90s, including NASA. They launch space balloons, however, not actual orbiting satellites. These end up – to quote David Bowie – “far above the world,” over 120,000 feet.

The company's president Kevin Tucker confirmed with numerous news organizations it had launched the balloon doing some data research for NASA.

What was unusual today was how clear it was in the morning, allowing those in Portland and the northern Willamette Valley to see the balloon. It had drifted west with weather conditions, which later shifted and brought it back towards the Oregon coast, where Near Space Corporation will recover it.

Courtesy Tillamook County Sheriff's, Aug. 28

There have been reports it has already popped and drifted back to Earth.

The balloon photo at top is a different, puffed-up shape because they normally inflate in the high atmosphere.

Near Space Corporation is aptly named, doing what it does near space but not quite there. Space is defined as over 62 miles away and they operate around 22 miles above the Earth.

A photo from Tillamook County Sheriff's office on August 28 shows them assisting in a launch.

According to a previous article from Oregon Coast Beach Connection on the company:

“While not exactly rocket science in the strictest sense, these near-space balloon flights carry payloads that range from several pounds to thousands of pounds in weight. Test flights often climb to 120,000 feet above sea level, allowing new technology demonstrations and scientific experiments to be conducted in a space-like environment above 99 percent of the Earth's atmosphere.”

There's an intriguing connection here between the Oregon coast and Mars. The company has been involved in balloon drop tests to simulate conditions on the red planet. These have been used in unmanned missions to Mars, including info from drone tests conducted by the company.

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Above courtesy Near Space Corporation. Below: Tillamook Bay


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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