When popping the big question, creativity is encouraged. So one airman recently used the opportunity to go a little bit over the top -- of the world, that is.
Capt. Stuart Shippee, of the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, proposed to his girlfriend Marie Lisman by launching a weather balloon into space with a ring soaring high above the Earth, according to a recent news release. The proposal took place in August.
Along with friends, and with Lisman by his side, Shippee, a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber pilot, launched the balloon with a decoy ring (phew) which flew up to 96,000 feet, according to Shippee's video recording of the launch, now posted on YouTube. Lisman thought Shippee was just sending up a military challenge coin -- but he swapped in the ring at the last minute, the video shows.
Once the balloon burst at high-altitude, it traveled back down to Earth, landing in a nearby cornfield, where Lisman and Shippee retrieved it using a GPS system attached to the package.
Once she picked up the container, Lisman saw the decoy ring perched on a stand while Shippee got down to one knee to propose with the real ring.
Shippee said was glad he made weather balloon experiments a personal hobby, enabling him to understand the mechanics of a successful launch.
"I would send them as high as I could in a container before the weather balloon popped, then let them come down and retrieve them using a global positioning system, all while recording their height," Shippee said of his experiments. "Between my air engineering degree and my pilot training, I had to rely heavily on them both to pull this off."
Weather balloons typically gather data on atmospheric pressure, temperature, wind speed and humidity. But in this case, the weather had to be relatively clear in order to pull off the feat.
"If anything went wrong, the whole thing would fail," Shippee recalled. The growing global helium shortage didn't help his stress either, he said.
"While I inflated the balloon, my hands were just trembling because I was so overwhelmed by it all," he said.
Despite the particularly hot August day in Missouri, the weather cooperated. Luckily, Shippee and friends found the balloon's location in the tall, unkempt cornfields before Lisman did, the release said.
"When I first picked up the balloon payload, I did not see the imitation ring until I looked down and [Shippee] was on his knee," Lisman said. "I was speechless! After the long day and difficult search for the payload I was very happy to have the ending be so special."
Congratulations to the happy couple.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.