“Mad” Mike Hughes, a 61-year-limo driver and self-taught rocket scientist who believes that the Earth is flat, finally blasted himself in the direction of space.
After many delays, Hughes propelled himself almost 600 metres into the air this weekend before a hard landing in the Mojave Desert, about 320 kilometres east of Los Angeles. He told The Associated Press that outside of an aching back, he’s fine after the launch near Amboy, Calif.
“Relieved,” he said after being checked out by paramedics after his steam-powered craft emblazed with the words “FLAT EARTH” returned to the ground. “I’m tired of people saying I chickened out and didn’t build a rocket. I’m tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it.”
According to The Associated Press, Hughes converted some scaffolding and a mobile home into a ramp and modified it to launch from a vertical angle so he wouldn’t fall back to the ground on public land. Much of the reason for the delay has been getting permission to use federal or state areas for the experiment.
Hughes reached a speed that an assistant, Waldo Stakes, estimated to be around 560 kph before deploying a parachute. Hughes was dropping too fast, though, and he had to send out a second one. Despite the two parachutes, it was a rough landing.
“Am I glad I did it?” Hughes said. “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 launch came after the intrepid entrepreneur got permission to launch on private land, and was launched near vertically in an effort to keep it from ending up in a public area.
The rocket touched down about 450 m from the launch ramp, Stakes said.
Hughes has said that his mission is not to prove his belief that the Earth is flat, despite his claims that NASA astronauts such as John Glenn and Neil Armstrong were actors performing in front of a computer-generated image of a round globe
“Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is,” he told The Associated Press. “Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”
Instead, it may well be for publicity — the launch and the preparations surrounding it were filmed for a documentary to be shown on online TV channel Noize.
“My story really is incredible,” Hughes said. “It’s got a bunch of story lines — the garage-built thing. I’m an older guy. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, plus the Flat Earth.”
And then there is a plan to run for governor of California.
“This is no joke,” Hughes said. “I want to do it.”