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Mike Hughes (daredevil)

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Mike Hughes
BornFebruary 9, 1956
Died (aged 64)
Cause of deathCrash of self-built rocket
Other names"Mad" Mike Hughes
Known for

Michael Hughes (February 9, 1956 – February 22, 2020), popularly known as "Mad" Mike Hughes, was an American limousine driver, professed flat-Earther, and daredevil known for flying in self-built steam rockets.[1][2] He died on February 22, 2020, while filming a stunt for an upcoming Science Channel television series.[3] Although a public promoter of the flat Earth model, following his death his public relations representative said that Hughes had only used flat Earth as a PR stunt to acquire funding for his rockets.


Hughes spent his childhood in Oklahoma City. He soon acquired an interest in motorcycle racing.[4]

In 2002, Hughes set a Guinness World Record with a 103-foot (31 m) jump in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine.[5][6][7] He stated during an interview with the Associated Press in 2018 that he had planned to run for Governor of California.[8]

At the time of his death, Hughes had no close relatives, and lived by himself in Apple Valley, California.[4][9][2][10]

Rocket launches[edit]

2014 launch[edit]

According to the Associated Press, Hughes built his first crewed rocket on January 30, 2014, and flew 1,374 feet (419 m) in just over one minute over Winkelman, Arizona. According to CBC News, Hughes collapsed after the landing and it took him three days to recover. Hughes stated that the injuries suffered from the flight put him in a walker for two weeks.[11][12] There was no video of Hughes entering the rocket and there were doubts that he was in it when it launched.[8]

Flat-Earth rocket fundraising and launch[edit]

In 2016, Hughes launched a failed fundraising attempt for a rocket that raised $310.[1][11] After professing his belief in a flat Earth later that year, Hughes gained support within the flat-Earth community. His post-flat-Earth fundraising campaign made its $7,875 goal. He had said he intended to make multiple rocket journeys, culminating in a flight to outer space, where he believed he would be able to take a picture of the entire Earth as a flat disc.[1] He said in November 2017 that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had given him verbal permission more than a year prior to launch his rocket, pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. However, a BLM spokesman said its local field office had no record of speaking to Hughes at the time. According to the BLM, after seeing some news articles about the planned launch, a BLM representative reached out to Hughes with concerns. The rocket launch was originally scheduled for the weekend of November 25, 2017; Hughes then rescheduled for December 2, 2017, blaming ongoing difficulties in obtaining permissions.[11] Hughes moved his launch pad 4 miles (6 km) so that he could take off and land on private property, but the BLM maintained he still needed to fill out permits. Hughes defiantly stated that the dispute would not stop him from flying: "I'm a daredevil. I'm not much for authority or rules."[13]

The untested initial rocket was intended to reach a speed of 500 mph (800 km/h); further rocket trips, which were to be launched from a balloon 20 miles (32 km) up,[14] were intended to reach above the atmosphere into outer space. Hughes acknowledged there were risks, telling the Associated Press: "It's scary as hell. But none of us are getting out of this world alive."[5] A fundraising campaign to cover the costs of the delay raised around $100 of its $10,000 goal. On February 3, 2018, Hughes live-streamed another attempted launch, but the rocket steam release malfunctioned and the launch was aborted.[15]

A successful launch on March 24, 2018, resulted in his reaching a height of 1,875 feet (572 m) and a hard landing in the Mojave Desert.[16] The steam-powered rocket launched at a sharp angle to avoid falling back to Earth on public land, and landed about 1,500 feet (460 m) away from the launch point. Hughes' team reported a maximum speed of 350 mph (560 km/h). Hughes reported no serious injury from the landing.[8]

Planned 2019 launch[edit]

Hughes planned to again launch himself in a rocket on August 10, 2019,[17] but mechanical troubles postponed the launch. The following weekend, the launch was again postponed and Hughes was treated for heat exhaustion.[18]

2020 launch and death[edit]

On February 22, 2020, Hughes died near Barstow, California, following the crash of a rocket he was piloting, built by Hughes and his collaborator Waldo Stakes.[19][20] During launch, the rocket's parachute, which was designed for landing, appeared to deploy early and detach from the craft.[10][21] A witness at the launch, freelance journalist Justin Chapman, said that the rocket appeared to rub against the launch apparatus and ladder, perhaps tearing the parachutes.[22] The launch event was being filmed for the Science Channel television series Homemade Astronauts, in which Hughes was to star.[23]


Following Hughes' death, Darren Shuster, his public relations representative, stated: "We used flat Earth as a PR stunt... Flat Earth allowed us to get so much publicity that we kept going! I know he didn’t believe in flat Earth and it was a schtick."[24][4][25][26] Science writer Mick West also came away convinced from talking to Hughes "that he was not driven by seeking to explain that the earth is flat but rather wanted to use the topic to promote his stuntman career."[27] On the other hand, Michael Linn, who was a partner on the documentary Rocketman: Mad Mike's Mission to Prove the Flat-Earth, said that Hughes' belief appeared genuine.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

Hughes appeared in the music video for the Death Valley Girls' song "One Less Thing (Before I Die)". The 1:53 min long video was directed by Kansas Bowling and featured footage of his "Flat Earth" rocket launch in Apple Valley.[28][29]

Hughes was the main focus of the 2019 documentary Rocketman: Mad Mike's Mission to Prove the Flat-Earth.[30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Dwyer, Colin (November 22, 2017). "'I Don't Believe In Science,' Says Flat-Earther Set To Launch Himself In Own Rocket". NPR. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Graham, Pat (November 20, 2017). "Self-Taught Rocket Scientist Mad Mike Hughes Plans to Launch Over Ghost Town". NBC4 Washington. Associated Press. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  3. ^ Haworth, Jon (February 23, 2020). "Daredevil dies after homemade rocket crashes in desert while filming TV show". ABC News.
  4. ^ a b c d Wigglesworth, Alex (February 24, 2020). "Death of rocket man 'Mad Mike' Hughes ends years of close calls". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Wang, Amy B.; Selk, Avi (November 27, 2017). "A flat-Earther's plan to launch himself in a homemade rocket has been postponed – again". Chicago Tribune. Washington Post. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Berger, Eric (March 28, 2016). "'Mad' Mike built a rocket so he can jump the Grand Canyon of Texas". Ars Technica. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  7. ^ "Longest limousine ramp jump". Guinness World Records. September 28, 2002. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "Flat-Earther's steam-powered rocket lofts him 1,875 feet up into Mojave Desert sky". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. March 25, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  9. ^ Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith (November 27, 2017). "Flat-Earther 'Mad' Mike Hughes forced to delay launch of homemade rocket". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 14, 2022. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  10. ^ a b "'Mad' Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket". BBC News. February 23, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c Wang, Amy B.; Selk, Avi (November 24, 2017). "A flat-Earther's plan to launch himself in a homemade rocket just hit a speed bump". Washington Post. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  12. ^ "Self-taught rocket scientist 'Mad' Mike Hughes blasts off into California sky". CBC. Associated Press. March 25, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Graham, Pat (November 28, 2017). "Self-taught rocket scientist eyes new launch date in Calif". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Associated Press. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  14. ^ Dow, Mike (December 13, 2017). "'Mad' Mike Hughes – limo driver turned rocket man". The Maine Edge. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  15. ^ Selk, Avi; Wang, Amy B. (February 6, 2018). "Analysis | A flat-earther finally tried to fly away. His rocket didn't even ignite". Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2018.
  16. ^ Giordano, Chiara (March 25, 2018). "Flat-earther blasts off in homemade rocket in bid to reassure himself world is shaped 'like a Frisbee'". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 14, 2022. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  17. ^ Mack, Eric (August 9, 2019). "Flat Earth Rocket Man 'Mad' Mike Hughes To Blast Off Again Soon". Forbes. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  18. ^ Gohd, Chelsea (August 12, 2019). "'Mad' Flat-Earther's Steam Rocket Launch Grounded by Bad Water Heater Bought on Craigslist". Space.com. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  19. ^ Silverman, Hollie (February 23, 2020). "Daredevil 'Mad Mike' Hughes dies while attempting to launch a homemade rocket". CNN. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  20. ^ Gohd, Chelsea (February 21, 2020). "'Mad Mike' will try to launch his steam rocket again for 'Homemade Astronauts' TV show". Space.com. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  21. ^ "Daredevil 'Mad' Mike Hughes dead at 64... Fatal Rocket Crash Landing". TMZ. February 22, 2020. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  22. ^ "Daredevil dies during homemade rocket launch in California". The Guardian. Associated Press. February 23, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  23. ^ Malik, Tariq (February 22, 2020). "'Mad Mike' Hughes, daredevil who built a homemade steam rocket, dies in launch attempt". Space.com. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  24. ^ "A Daredevil Flat Earther Died After Attempting To Launch Himself 5,000 Feet With A Homemade Rocket". BuzzFeed News. 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  25. ^ Ortiz, Aimee (February 23, 2020). "Mike Hughes, 64, D.I.Y. Daredevil, Is Killed in Rocket Crash". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  26. ^ Steadman, Otillia (February 24, 2020). "NEWS: 'Flat Earth' Daredevil Dies in Homemade Rocket Stunt". theconfessionalspodcast.com. The confessionals podcast. Archived from the original on March 24, 2022. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
  27. ^ West, Mick (May–June 2023). "Into the Lion's Den: Conferences as Skeptical Activism". Skeptical Inquirer: 33.
  28. ^ Kamp, Justin (October 5, 2018). "Death Valley Girls Share Video for "(One Less Thing) Before I Die"". pastemagazine.com. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  29. ^ "Death Valley Girls - "(One Less Thing) Before I Die" Video". Stereogum. October 2, 2018. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  30. ^ Manus, Tanya (August 11, 2019). "'Rocketman' Makes its Debut Today". Rapid City Journal. Rapid City, South Dakota. p. A1 – via Newspapers.com.
  31. ^ Manus, Tanya (August 11, 2019). "'Rocketman' Makes its Debut Today". Rapid City Journal. Rapid City, South Dakota. p. A3 – via Newspapers.com.

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