“Mad Mike” Hughes, a self-taught rocket engineer and firm Flat Earth believer, blasted off in his homemade steam-powered rocket in order to prove that the Earth is shaped “like a frisbee” before landing quite quickly in the Mojave Desert. The rocket, which reportedly cost $20,000, propelled itself upwards for about 4 seconds before the parachutes were released to slow his descent.
The 61-year-old who works as a limo driver said that he felt fine after the landing except for his aching back.
“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,” he announced.
This was Hughes’ third attempt to launch his homemade rocket largely funded by a group called “Research Flat Earth”; the first attempt (November 2017) was cancelled after the Bureau of Land Management refused to give him permission to launch in public lands, and the second attempt (February 2018) failed because of some undisclosed technical malfunction.
“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,” he said after being checked for injuries by paramedics at the site.
In an interview with Daily Plane, a website for Flat Earthers and other conspiracy theorists, Mike Hughes stated that he only started believing the Flat Earth theory around 2016, after “researching it for months.”
“This is the king of the deceptions,” he said about the Earth’s round shape. “This is it. And once this domino falls and more people come to this side, then everything else — the dominos structure falls.”
According to Hughes, his goal is to fly high enough to gather evidence that would disprove that the Earth is round. During the launch, he reportedly reached 1,875 feet into the air with an estimated speed of 350mph. Riding a standard commercial airplane could have taken him up to 39,000 feet.
In order to clearly see Earth’s curvature with your own eyes, you need to reach around 23.6km into the air—or 77, 427.82 feet—as students from the University of Leicester found out after they launched a high altitude weather balloon and captured breathtaking images of the Earth’s stratosphere in 2017.
There are other ways to prove that Earth isn’t flat without using weather balloons or launching yourself in a homemade rocket, like observing the moon cycles or getting on a trans-Atlantic flight. In fact, humans have known that the world is spherical for 2,000 years. It was the Ancient Greeks who first realized this, even before we developed the technology for space travel.
Among those early thinkers was Aristotle, who figured out the Earth’s shape by observing the heavens and realizing that we see a different set of stars from the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. If the Earth was flat, we would all see the same stars at any given time. There’s also the fact that in 1519 to 1522, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan famously circumnavigated the Earth without falling off any edges.
These statements won’t convince Hughes, though. In a 2017 interview with Associated Press, he declared:
“I don’t believe in science. I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.”
After the launch, people took to Twitter to talk about it. A lot of posts made fun of his experiment:
If the next one he makes goes a little higher, he just might prove natural selection.
— High Priest (@CultOfSekhmet) March 25, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen introducing Trump's new secretary of transportation
— MagnumBoom (@WashingtonKaye) March 25, 2018
Are you going to show Mad Mike this NASA photo or am I? pic.twitter.com/P6NwMumH9Y
— Justyn Barnes (@justynbarnes) March 25, 2018
Some said that it’s worth giving Hughes credit for accomplishing what he did with a homemade rocket and surviving the launch:
Say what you want, I've got mad respect for Mike Hughes: "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." https://t.co/bFhaXfd07o
What do you think @elonmusk?
— Juan M. Trejo (@juanmtrejo) March 25, 2018
this guy is legit crazy but im actually impressed. https://t.co/p64sZJ5uvN
— Josiah G (AB) / #NEVERAGAIN (@josiah_geek) March 26, 2018
— Jeffrey M. Hoffman (@hoffenbrau51) March 26, 2018
And some people just want SpaceX’s Elon Musk to help Hughes get to space:
Flat-Earther blasts off into California sky in homemade steam-powered rocket.
— Red T Raccoon (@RedTRaccoon) March 25, 2018
— David Brett (@Properfunk) March 26, 2018
So, what’s next for Mad Mike? In the future, he wants to build a “Rockoon”– a rocket that is carried into the atmosphere by a gas-filled ballon, then separated from the balloon and ignited–which would take him about 109.435km (359,038 feet) upwards. This is way above the Armstrong Limit, which begins at an altitude of 60,000 feet and where all bodily fluids (including blood) will “begin to boil away” and where “no amount of inhaled oxygen administered by any means will support life.”
Oh, and he also plans to run for governor in his town.
You can watch the entire video of the launch below (start at the 26:35 mark if you just want to see the actual launch):
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