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A fighter jet flies near a large balloon drifting above the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina near Myrtle Beach, Feb. 4. Minutes later, the balloon was struck by a missile from an F-22 fighter jet, ending its weeklong traverse over the United States. China said the balloon was a weather research vessel blown off course, a claim rejected by U.S. officials. Chad Fish/AP hide caption

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Chad Fish/AP

The Chinese balloon saga could be part of a new space race closer to Earth

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