DEADHORSE, Alaska — The United States has called off the search for two of the unidentified flying objects that the military shot out of the sky this month, raising the possibility that the devices will never be collected and analyzed, a U.S. official said Friday.
The floating craft above North America have become a source of intrigue since an American missile took down a Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4. But President Biden said this week that the three objects shot down since then were most likely research balloons, not spy craft.
American authorities had been trying to reach remote areas of Alaska and Lake Huron for two of the objects, but on Friday a U.S. official said the conditions made it too difficult to pinpoint the objects. The Canadian search for the third object over the Yukon was still ongoing, the official said.
On Friday, military pilots searched an area 20 miles off the coast of northern Alaska, temporarily imposing flight restrictions. The pilots used aircraft equipped with radar to see through the ice but found no trace of the object, believed to be about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, the official said.
Mr. Biden has said the intelligence community’s assessment is that the three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific studies.
John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, suggested earlier Friday that the objects might never be recovered.
Asked about reports that a group called the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade believed that one of the downed objects could be its balloon, Mr. Kirby said: “It’s very difficult until you can get your hands on something to be able to tell, and because of where it is over Lake Huron, we all have to accept the possibility we may not be able to recover it.”
As for the original Chinese spy balloon, Navy divers recovered debris this week from off the coast of South Carolina and sent it to the F.B.I.’s laboratory in Quantico, Va., for further analysis.