chinese spy balloon
© Twitter / Brad Panovich / Travis Huffstetler
The balloon, which the United States has claimed is a Chinese surveillance balloon, first became public knowledge on Thursday, though Bloomberg reported earlier on Saturday that the Biden administration has known about the craft since January 28.

The US Military shot down the Chinese balloon that has been flying over the United States over the past few days on Saturday afternoon. Witness video of the balloon's destruction was first posted on social media and live streamed by national media. The balloon was reportedly shot down off the East Coast of North Carolina.

The Chinese government says the balloon is a civilian vessel designed to monitor weather patterns that had blown off course. The balloon was reportedly flying at about 66,000 feet.

Prior to the operation that brought down the balloon, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had paused flights at three airports in the area "to support the Defense Department in a national security effort." The grounding of those airports has reportedly been lifted.

Earlier in the week, it was reported that the US Military advised against shooting down the craft while it was over land. Officials feared the falling debris could be dangerous to civilians on the ground.

Despite those apprehensions, multiple Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, criticized President Joe Biden for not shooting down the plane. Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. encouraged citizens in Montana to take action into their own hands while the alleged surveillance balloon was over the state.

Beach-goers at Myrtle Beach, North Carolina captured the operation using cell phone cameras and posted it to Twitter and other social media sites. US Fighter Jets can be seen circling the craft before one appears to fire a missile at it, causing the remnants of the balloon to crash back to earth.

Earlier on Saturday, President Biden told reporters that his administration was "gonna take care" of the balloon when asked if he planned to shoot it down. The Pentagon said on Friday that the balloon did not pose a threat militarily or politically.

The official added that the order was given by the President and was supported by military leadership.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was scheduled to visit Beijing on Sunday, that trip has been indefinitely postponed because of the incident, though China says the trip was never officially announced. Beijing added that it respects Washington's decision to cancel the trip.

President Biden spoke to reporters after the operation on Saturday, saying he wanted to bring the balloon down on Wednesday. The balloon did not become public knowledge until Thursday.

"On Wednesday when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down — on Wednesday — as soon as possible. They decided, without doing damage to anyone on the ground, they decided that the best time to do that was as it got over water ... within a 12-mile limit. They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it," the President told reporters in Maryland on Saturday.