A pilot’s proposal that’s out of this world

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sadie Colbert
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

It is not every day someone receives a proposal from outer space, but on Aug. 31, 2019, Capt. Stuart Shippee, a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber pilot from the 393rd Bomb Squadron, used his piloting knowledge to take his marriage proposal to the next atmospheric level by using a weather balloon.

The idea took form when Shippee saw others use weather balloons and recorded their ascent. So he challenged himself with a weather balloon hobby which utilized his knowledge, gained through schooling, to send challenge coins as high as he could into the air.

“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 explained. “Between my aero engineering degree and my pilot training, I had to rely heavily on them both to pull this off.”

Once he launched a few squadron coins approximately 96 thousand feet into the atmosphere, he felt confident enough to launch his relationship with his girlfriend to the next level.  He proposed to his girlfriend, Marie Lisman, with the same idea by taking a ring and sending it up with a weather balloon, recording it and letting her discovery of the ring be the proposal moment.

“It was on my mind for a while so I wasn’t sure if I would be gutsy enough to do it,” Shippee said. “Eventually, I went for it.”

He mentioned there was a tremendous amount of stress going in to the whole planning process and even during executing the launch of the balloon.

“Finding helium to launch the balloon was difficult to come across because there was a helium shortage,” Shippee explained.

Worried, Shippee knew Lisman was only in town for that weekend, so he had one shot to propose. He worried so much about how the weather would be and other factors that played a role into the proposal.

“If anything went wrong, the whole thing would fail,” He said.

Shippee explained to Lisman, telling her he would attach a 13th Bomb Squadron coin to a weather balloon with a video camera and record its ascent into space.

“While I inflated the balloon, my hands were just trembling because I was so overwhelmed by it all,” he recalled.

Right before releasing the balloon, Shippee swapped the coin for an imitation engagement ring.

He captured footage as the ring slowly rose higher and higher, ultimately leading to an ethereal view of planet Earth with the ring front and center, approximately 90 thousand feet from its surface.

The weather balloon fell back down to Earth and the couple navigated their way to it using a GPS attached to the box.

“The GPS only works below 40,000 feet, so half of the time when it flies, I have no idea where it is and there’s a chance that I may never hear from it again,” Shippee said.

He said he looked in Google maps and saw nice and plowed fields, but when he, his girlfriend and three friends arrived at the location they saw 10-feet-tall cornfields.

“So I had the relative location, but I worried how we were going to find it in these thick corn fields,” said Shippee.

Shippee and his friends searched in the August heat for the ring, thankfully discovering it before Lisman did.

“When I first picked up the balloon payload I did not see the imitation ring until I looked down and Stuart was on his knee,” said Lisman. “I was speechless! After the long day and difficult search for the payload I was very happy to have the ending be so special.”

Shippee said when he saw her put the ring on her finger, he was the happiest guy that had ever been in a hot Missouri cornfield.

Click the link to see the otherworldly proposal video.