(1956 – February 22, 2020), popularly known as "Mad
" Mike Hughes
, was an American limousine driver, daredevil, and flat Earth
conspiracy theorist known for flying in self-built rockets. He died on February 22, 2020, while filming a stunt for an upcoming Science Channel television series.
Hughes lived in Apple Valley, California. In 2002 he set a Guinness world record with a 103-foot (31 m) jump in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine. Hughes stated during an interview with the Associated Press in 2018 that he had plans to run for governor of California.
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. There was no video of Hughes entering the rocket and there were doubts that he was in it when it launched.
In 2016 Hughes launched a failed fundraising attempt for a rocket that earned $310. 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. He claimed 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. Hughes moved his launch pad 4 miles (6.4 km) so that he could take off and land on private property; however, the BLM maintained he still needed to fill out permits. Hughes defiantly stated the dispute would not stop him flying: "I'm a daredevil. I'm not much for authority or rules."
The untested initial rocket was intended to reach a speed of 500 miles per hour (800 km/h); further rocket trips, which were to be launched from a balloon 20 miles (32 km) up, 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." 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.
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. 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 (563 km/h). Hughes reported no serious injury from the landing
Hughes planned to again launch himself in a rocket on August 10, 2019, however, mechanical troubles postponed the launch. The following weekend, the launch was again postponed and Hughes was treated for heat exhaustion.
On February 22, 2020, Hughes (at the age of 64) was confirmed dead following the crash-landing of a self-built rocket he was piloting. During launch, the rocket’s parachute, which was designed for landing, appeared to deploy early and detach from the craft. The launch event was being filmed for the Science Channel television series Homemade Astronauts
, in which Hughes was to star.
Following Hughes' death, a 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."