“Mad Mike” Hughes, an amateur engineer, daredevil and “Flat Earth” conspiracy theorist whose beliefs pushed him to prove it with homemade rockets, died Saturday when his steam-powered rocket crashed shortly after takeoff outside Barstow, California.
Hughes was among the subjects in the upcoming Science Channel series Homemade Astronauts. “Michael ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket,” the Science Channel confirmed Saturday. “Our thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch & Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey.”
Video from the incident, filmed by reporter Justin Chapman, captured the tragic accident, with the steam-powered rocket’s parachute accidentally deploying moments after launch. The rocket continued its journey skyward, but with no parachute to slow its descent, crash-landed in the desert, killing Hughes at the age of 64.
— Justin Chapman (@justindchapman) February 22, 2020
Space.com reported that Hughes’ self-financed mission was for the rocket to reach an altitude of 5,000 feet; in a similar experiment in March 2018, Hughes’ rocket approached 1,900 feet before he deployed his parachute. The BBC added that, as a daredevil, Hughes set a Guinness World Record in 2002 for the longest limousine jump, a 103-foot jump with a Lincoln Town Car stretch limo; by day, Hughes was a limo driver.
Hughes, however, was also well-known in the Flat Earth community, believing the Earth was frisbee-shaped and, with his steam-powered rockets, hoped to prove the theory.
“I believe in the geocentric Flat Earth model. I’m not gonna take anyone else’s word for it, I’m gonna build my own rocket right here and see it with my own eyes, what shape this world we live on,” Hughes said in a teaser trailer for the documentary Rocketman: Mad Mike’s Mission to Prove the Earth Is Flat.
The Flat Earth Society said in a statement, “Today, the Flat Earth movement has lost a dear friend. Michael Hughes – inventor, daredevil, and a self-proclaimed madman, has taken one final leap into the sky in a self-constructed steam-powered rocket as part of a Science Channel series he was to star in. He lost his life in a tragic accident.”
The group continued, “A Guinness World Record holder for the longest limousine ramp jump, Mike never shied away from controversy and danger. It coursed through his veins. His bold, outspoken attitude will be greatly missed by all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family in these trying times. It is my hope that Mike has found whatever it was he was looking for in this crazy world. Godspeed, Michael, you glorious bastard.”
Hughes also featured prominently in a YouTube mockumentary about Flat Earthers — filmed at the 2018 Flat Earth International Conference in Denver — and later sued YouTube personality Logan Paul over the film.