After land management and mechanical problems delayed earlier attempts, flat-earther “Mad” Mike Hughes finally managed to launch himself 1875 feet into the air inside his home-made steam rocket on Saturday. But it wasn’t high enough to convince him that the world isn’t shaped like a Frisbee.
The 61-year-old limo driver and self-taught rocket builder from California completed the launch in the Mojave Desert, 150 miles east of Los Angeles. Issues with the Bureau of Land Management caused him to cancel previous attempts and forced him to build a better launch platform, which is made from a converted mobile home.
"I'm tired of people saying I chickened out and didn't build a rocket," he said. "I'm tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it."
High winds and the fact the rocket was losing steam—his team wanted it at 350 psi, but the pressure remained at 340 psi—meant another cancelation looked likely, but the launch went ahead. After reaching an estimated 350 mph, Hughes pulled his parachute. The speed he was descending meant he had to deploy a second one. The nose cone acted as a crumple zone and broke in two places on impact, as it was designed to do.
“This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways," said Hughes. "This thing will kill you in a heartbeat.”
"Am I glad I did it? Yeah. I guess. I'll feel it in the morning. I won't be able to get out of bed. At least I can go home and have dinner and see my cats tonight."
The entire event lasted around three to four minutes, and the rocket landed about 1500 feet from the ramp.
1800 feet wasn’t high enough for Hughes to see the earth’s shape, but he said the launch was "a wild stunt designed to raise awareness for my ultimate challenge, THE space launch." He’s aiming to go a lot higher with this next project. He believes the “Rockoon,” a rocket that is carried into the atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon then launched, will take him about 68 miles up and convince him just how round, or flat, our planet is.
"Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is," he said. "Do I know for sure? No. That's why I want to go up in space."