Daredevil 'Mad' Mike Hughes, 64, Killed After Homemade Rocket Crashes Over Calif. Desert
Daredevil “Mad” Mike Hughes was killed Saturday after an attempt to launch himself up to the border of Earth and space in a homemade steam-propelled rocket went awry.
Hughes, 64, launched himself above the open desert near Barstow, California just before 2 p.m., the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.
Authorities said the rocket “went out of control,” and that Hughes — whom they identified only as a 64-year-old male resident of Apple Valley — was pronounced dead at the scene.
Freelancer writer Justin Chapman witnessed the crash, and shared video of the accident to Twitter, in which the rocket can be seen flying into the air, then losing its parachute mere moments later.
“When the rocket was nosediving and he didn’t release the three other parachutes he had in the rocket, lots of people screamed out and started wailing,” he told BuzzFeed News. “Everyone was stunned when he crashed, and didn’t know what to do.”
Chapman told the Associated Press it appeared as though the rocket rubbed against the launch apparatus, which could have torn the parachutes that were attached to it. It fell straight down into the ground seconds later.
Hughes was on an apparent “cosmic quest to explore the final frontier,” and had hoped to be launched 5,000 feet into the air — past the Karman Line, which separates the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, according to an article on the Science Channel.
The mission was one of three launches that was to be featured in the channel’s new series Homemade Astronauts, according to The New York Times.
The Science Channel, which is owned by the Discovery Channel, confirmed Hughes’ death in a statement on Twitter.
“Michael ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket. Our thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch & Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey,” the statement read.
Hughes made headlines in the past for similarly ambitious stunts; in March 2018, he “propelled” himself up 1,875 feet above the Mojave Desert before he came crashing down, the AP reported.
He also held the Guinness World Record for longest limousine ramp jump, which he accomplished in 2002 after jumping 103 feet in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limo, as BuzzFeed News noted.
“My story really is incredible,” he told the AP in 2018 of his trajectory to gaining fame for his experiments and “flat earth” theories. “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. The problem is it brings out all the nuts also, people questioning everything. It’s the downside of all this.”
He added: “Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is. Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”
Despite public comments declaring he believed the Earth was flat, Hughes’ publicist Darren Shuster told BuzzFeed News that his claims were a publicity stunt, and that he didn’t actually think the Earth was flat.
“We used Flat Earth as a PR stunt. Period. He was a true daredevil decades before the latest round of rocket missions,” he said. “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 shtick.”
Hughes is survived by two children, according to the Times.
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