Rocket-builder and flat-Earther “Mad” Mike Hughes is at it again, setting his sights on yet another DIY rocket launch for this Saturday, August 17.
Originally planned for last weekend, his rocket never quite made it off the ground due to a faulty heater he bought on Craigslist, Space.com reports. The heater wasn't able to heat to the 200°C (400°F) needed to create the steam to propel the rocket.
The 63-year-old limo driver and self-taught rocket engineer is aiming for a peak altitude of around 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) at speeds up to 640 kilometers (400 miles) per hour in a refurbished version of his steam-powered rocket that launched last year, according to a press release. Funded by the “commitment-free dating app” Hub, this attempt will help Hughes raise money for his later attempt to launch “Rock-oon” – part rocket, part balloon – 62 miles (100 kilometers) high to the Karman line (the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space) as part of the Science Channel’s new series, Homemade Astronauts (WT).
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, Homemade Astronauts looks at a group of ambitious individuals who are carrying on in the American tradition of finding their own way and making their dreams come true with old-fashioned grit and self-determination,” said Marc Etkind, general manager of Science Channel.
Even though he’s quite good at engineering rockets, science seems to leave a sour taste in the flat-Earther’s mouth.
"I don't believe in science," Hughes previously told The Associated Press (AP). "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.”
Hughes’ previous attempts have largely been publicity stunts for the Flat Earth Movement but don’t contribute to debunking the claim that the planet is actually flat. A few hundred meters is not high enough to see the curvature of the Earth, which can be seen around 11 kilometers (35,000 feet) high – just about cruising altitude for major international jets.
In November 2017, Hughes attempted to travel 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) above the Mojave Desert at speeds of up to 800 kilometers (500 miles) per hour via a $20,000 steam-powered rocket. It didn’t pan out: The Bureau of Land Management wouldn’t allow him to launch himself in his home-made rocket, claiming they did not have any records of granting permission to carry out such an attempt over public lands. A few months later in 2018, Hughes again attempted a vertical rocket lunch above a ghost town in California and ended up blasting off generally unscathed, ultimately reaching an altitude of 570 meters (1,875 feet).
“Am I glad I did it?” Hughes said, speaking to the AP. “Yeah. I guess. I’ll feel it in the morning. I won’t be able to get out of bed. At least I can go home and have dinner and see my cats tonight.”
Other “real life” astronauts featured in the series include Ky Michaelson, a civilian who plans to build and launch an unmanned rocket into space, and spacesuit-building Cameron Smith, who plans to test his suit at 18,300 meters (60,000 feet) aboard a specialized hot air balloon.