The Chinese balloon that was shot down by a US fighter jet....

..near North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina last week was initially thought to be a spy balloon by US officials.

The wreckage was recovered by Coast Guard and Navy ships, with assistance from the FBI.

The US officials say the balloon flew over sensitive military sites in the US

and had the ability to navigate and change altitude, suggesting it was part of a wider surveillance mission.

According to pictures of the balloon, it was around 60 meters in height and had a payload around the size of a regional jet, with multiple antennae and sensors.

Although it is not clear what sort of intelligence the balloon was able to collect,

the use of balloons for espionage has been seen before as they can be adapted for different missions 

The incident has sent a message to the US that China is willing to engage in espionage efforts

and has impacted US-China diplomacy.