With recent Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin launches, civilian trips to space may no longer be science fiction. That is, as long as you’re richer than most people can even imagine. For the rest of us, though, it looks like we’re stuck here for the foreseeable future.

One man sought to take the average Joe into space, though. “Mad” Mike Hughes was a daredevil, a rocketeer, and a … flat-Earther. Oh. Despite his grand ambitions, his dreams, appropriately, crashed and burned.

Hughes was interested in the power of steam rockets, and his ultimate goal was to create a “Rockoon.” This combination of a rocket and a balloon, Hughes believed, could make it to the Karman line, the boundary to space. Hughes was not alone in his ventures. He had the help of vehicle designer Waldo Stakes to build his rockets. 

While the Rockoon, tragically, never came to be, Hughes did manage to conduct a successful steam rocket launch in 2018. The rocket took him 1,875 feet in the air, and he survived his return to the Earth’s surface. 

He did later say that the impact upon landing was rougher than expected, though. While this was a good start for the amateur rocketeer, he was about 325,485 feet from the Karman line. Who’s counting?

This takes us to February 22, 2020, the day of “Mad” Mike’s fatal voyage. The rocket was supposed to get much higher this time, and Hughes had attracted a crowd, including a crew from The Science Channel, who were filming a show called “Homemade Astronauts.” However, as the rocket took off, signs of a botch were apparent. The parachute had deployed during takeoff, seemingly getting caught on the launch apparatus, and the rocket’s awkward ascent only lasted a few seconds before Hughes came crashing to the Earth. 

He died immediately.

Well, that’s a downer. What’s this about flat Earth, though? All of the hype at the time of Hughes’ launch was that he was a flat-earther. He seemed to be a man of many conspiracies, and he was distrustful of literally everyone for claiming the Earth was a globe. Because of this, part of his motivation for flying was to prove in flat earth theory. He even said it himself that he wanted to check it out.

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Or was that really what he was doing? In later interviews, Hughes said that he wasn’t really trying to prove a flat Earth. Some close to him claim that he didn’t even believe in the flat Earth theory and merely drummed it up to build publicity. Though when the documentary about you is literally called Rocketman: Mad Mike's Mission to Prove the Flat Earth, you can see where the confusion might arise.

Lawless Magician Pictures

Yes, Joe Rogan makes an appearance.

“Mad” Mike Hughes was a daredevil, and his motivations for traveling in dangerous rockets were likely at least in part due to the thrill of it. Whether or not he was truly trying to search for the flat Earth is an answer we will never know. One thing is certain, though. He definitely didn’t get to prove that theory if he wanted to, as he did not get high enough to check.

Top Image: Lawless Magician Pictures

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