WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (CNA) - A United States pilot flying high above a suspected Chinese spy balloon took a close-up, selfie-like photo of the large white orb just a day before the Air Force shot it down off the South Carolina coast.

The photo shows the top of the pilot's helmet inside cockpit of a U-2 aircraft, with the balloon flying below. It was taken on Feb 3 while the balloon was close to Kansas.

The Pentagon released the image on Wednesday (Feb 22), more than two weeks after the balloon made international headlines as it transited the US.

The balloon was downed on Feb 4 by an F-22 fighter jet firing a AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. The strike took place once the balloon was no longer over land but was still within US territorial waters.

The U-2 Dragon Lady is a high-altitude US spy plane that has been in service since the 1950s.

The Pentagon announced last Friday that Navy ships and submersibles had completed recovery of the massive balloon and its payload, which fell in pieces into the Atlantic Ocean.

The "majority of the balloon", including its payload, was recovered from the ocean floor and is being analysed by the FBI, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said on Wednesday.

The shootdown led to three other smaller objects also being shot down by Air Force jets within a period of eight days: One over Alaska, one over Canada and one over Lake Huron. Searches for the Alaska and Lake Huron objects have ended.

The White House announced last week that an interagency task force would look at the different incidents and how to better assess the actions to be taken.

The suspected Chinese spy balloon first entered US airspace on Jan 28 before moving into Canadian airspace on Jan 30. It then re-entered US airspace on Jan 31, according to US officials.

China has called it a civilian balloon used for meteorological research, and sharply criticised the US for shooting it down.