Limo driver turned rocket builder “Mad” Mike Hughes, who believes the Earth is more of a flat frisbee than a round planet, had a successful launch in his self-made rocket in the California desert yesterday afternoon. After countless delays for a variety of reasons that have stretched through most of the winter, the “flat-earther” launched himself into the sky atop a steam-powered rocket he built. The 61 year old soared 1,875 feet into the sky before returning in a hard landing some 1,500 feet away. Hughes told an AP reporter at the launch site that “aside from a sore back”, he was doing fine after the launch.
“I’m tired of people saying I chickened out and didn’t build a rocket,” he told AP. “I’m tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it.”
After the launch, Hughes was looking forward to eating his dinner and seeing his cats. “I’ll feel it in the morning,” he said. “I won’t be able to get out of bed.”
The rocket builder plans a more ambitious mission to prove the Earth is flat. Hughes says he wants to build a “rockoon,” a rocket that is carried into the atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon, then separated from the balloon and lit. This rocket would take Hughes about 68 miles up, high enough he says to see with his own eyes whether the Earth is flat or round.
Before his next adventure into space, Hughes also has ambitions on Earth: he plans to be the next Governor of California. Hughes says he has already filed the paperwork with San Bernardino County and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla for his 2018 gubernatorial bid. “They need someone like me. e me to turn this whole thing around. What we have for government is a bankrupt corporation — a de facto government,” said Hughes. “They don’t want people like me who are enthused, knowledgeable. All it takes is 10 percent of people like me walking around and you can’t stop us. Ask questions, don’t always take authority as gospel. History is not even correct.” Hughes told a reporter after a previous launch attempt, “The only time something happens good are from people who live on the fringe — people who push the envelope and ask the questions.”
Hughes built his rocket for $20,000, using scrap metal and a motor home he purchased on Craigslist to serve as a launch pad. The Saturday launch involved heating roughly 70 gallons of water in a stainless steel tank. The steam powered device is a thermal rocket that uses water held in a pressure vessel at a high temperature, such that its saturated vapor pressure is significantly greater than ambient pressure. The water is allowed to escape as steam through a rocket nozzle to produce thrust. When the rocket reached an altitude of about 1,800 feet, Hughes deployed two large parachutes that brought him safely back to Earth.
Hughes is part of a movement of people that believe the Earth is flat and that science and data that says otherwise is part of a vast conspiracy. Flat Earthers believe the earth is a flat disk, with Antarctica acting an an ice wall on its edges. Many belong to the Flat Earth Society, which houses a Wiki of basic beliefs of members on its website. However, they write, “because there are different schools of Flat Earth thought, the Wiki should not necessarily be taken as the “official” view of the Society. The specific beliefs of our members are widely varied, as should be expected from such a group of free-thinkers!”
“I don’t believe in science,” said Hughes, whose main sponsor for the rocket is Research Flat Earth. “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.”