And it was making a hissing sound, police said. Employees at the solar panel field told officers that they were concerned.
“We just had a package — I’m not making this up — parachute onto my site,” one of the callers said in a recording published by NBC 4. “There’s a note on the side that I find disturbing. It references something about the president.”
The site was quickly evacuated as a bomb squad was sent to the area, according to NBC. The Secret Service also investigated. But the inquiry revealed a curious fact: The box had been sent into the sky by NASA. It was a weather-monitoring device, police said, one of six that scientists released in the area on Sunday. Photographs show that it had red and black wires inside.
“The weather researchers were apologetic for any concerns they had raised by the hand written note on the device,” the South Brunswick Police Department said in a statement.
In a statement, NASA spokeswoman J.D. Harrington explained the mishap. The box contained a weather balloon instrument for measuring ozone, and had been launched as part of an air-quality study from a site owned by Rutgers University, which was not involved with the research.
“Because the instruments are often found after they float back to Earth, they include notes informing the public of their research purpose,” Harrington said. “In this instance, a summer student employee, not affiliated with Rutgers, added extra text, in a misguided attempt to be lighthearted.”
Only one of the six other weather instruments has been recovered, NBC reported.
The student was removed from the project, Harrington said, as the agency worked to standardize the labeling process for such instruments.