Mad Mike Hughes - Rocket Launch

“Mad Mike” Hughes propels himself 570 metres into the air to prove his conspiracy theory

Jennifer Weitbrecht
5 minutes

He calls himself “Mad Mike” and is convinced that the Earth is flat – or could it just be a clever ploy in order to obtain funding for his major goal? After all, flying to the edge of space in a homemade rocket is a costly business.

Finally a successful launch

The conspiracy theorist Mike Hughes blasted off in his self-built rocket against all odds and returned to Earth largely unscathed. He spares no effort or risk in order to prove his flat Earth conspiracy theory.

Having announced the launch some time ago, Mike Hughes could now actually celebrate his success. On 24 March 2018, at 3:00 pm local time in California, the 61-year old blasted off into the air to an altitude of 570 metres in his self-built, steam-powered rocket ­– without a countdown. Waldo Stakes, who supported him on this project, estimated the speed to be approximately 560 kilometres per hour.

Rocket launch in the Mojave Desert

The unusual spectacle took place in the Mojave Desert near Amboy in California. Albert Okura, owner of the town, gave his permission for the controversial launch attempt. The founder of the Californian restaurant chain “Juan Pollo” purchased the ghost town approximately 320 kilometres to the east of Lost Angeles for the sum of $425,000 dollars in 2005. Albert Okura was delighted that the launch was a success: “Mike has turned this place into a rocket town. It was great.”

The launch ramp and rocket boost were as unconventional as the entire project, built over several months tinkering about in his own garage. Mad Mike used a blue and white camper van on which he mounted a frame with his rocket. The rocket was propelled into the air by steam vapour discharged from a small nozzle on a 1.6 metre tall and 0.6 metre wide steel cylinder. “Like a hot bottle of champagne”, confirms Mike Hughes.

Hard landing – whether a ball or frisbee

Mike Hughes used a parachute for his return to Earth. But it was only the opening of a second parachute that probably saved him from a fatal crash landing because he fell to Earth faster than initially planned. Yet after a hard landing, he only talked about a sore back, but otherwise he was okay. The rocket returned to Earth around 460 metres away from the launch pad where the nose cone of the rocket broke apart.

It’s no wonder that Mike Hughes was relieved when the emergency services had examined him. “This thing tries to kill you in ten different ways”. However, he does not regret it. “Am I happy that I did it? Yes. I think so.” He will suffer the consequences the next morning and not be able to get out of bed. “But at least I can go home tonight, eat dinner and see my cats.”

Flat earther Mike Hughes had to overcome some obstacles

The rocket launch was originally announced for much earlier – back in November 2017 – but not everything went to plan. The launch was delayed due to several objections raised by the Bureau of Land Management and because of technical problems. He was particularly annoyed by people who assumed that he would back out and not build a rocket, but he did it and “stood his ground”.

On the day of the launch itself, it initially appeared again as if he would fail – this time because of the strong wind. The plan was to power the rocket with 350 hp but it could only reach 340 hp. His assistant, Waldo Stakes, wanted to add more heat to the rocket boost – but Mike Hughes disagreed.

Things really get moving! Mad Mike’s goal: the lower edge of space

According to Mike Hughes, the project involving the successful launch of his rocket is far from over. The next step is to build a so-called “rockoon” – a cross between a rocket and balloon that he envisages will transport him to the edge of the universe. Why is he doing all this? The conspiracy theorist would like to see the – alleged – curvature of the Earth with his own eyes. “Do I believe that the Earth is shaped like a frisbee? Yes, that’s what I think”, he says. “Do I know this for sure? No. That’s why I want to fly into space.”

The “flat Earth” theory – believing the unbelievable

Existing evidence that the Earth is round, such as satellite images as well as photos and reports put forward by astronauts, does not impress Mad Mike, nor does the opportunity of using a helium balloon to be able to detect the Earth’s curvature. Mike Hughes clearly expresses his doubts: I can’t believe NASA. I don’t think that the international space station exists. I don’t believe that there are people up there. I don’t believe this stuff.”

But it’s not just a question of belief; it’s also ultimately about raising money … He would like to reach an altitude of 100 kilometres with his next rocket, flying the first stage of 32 to 35 kilometres by balloon and then covering the remaining 65 kilometres with the rocket.

Mike Hughes himself is impressed by his own story. “There are lots of different storylines – that the rocket was built in a garage, that I am an elderly man, that everything is played out in the middle of nowhere and the Earth is flat.” Ironically, he is only bothered about one thing: people who call everything into question. They are the downside of the whole thing.” According to Mike Hughes, the project attracts many weirdos. It is hard for him to understand the scepticism towards his own project.

by Jennifer Weitbrecht

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