TNB Night Owl – Mad Mike Hughes

Discovery as it lifts off Oct. 11, 2000. Photo by NASA.

Mike Hughes, of Apple Valley, California, believes the world is flat, and he has set out to prove or disprove it – the hard way. (Refer to “Debunking The Flat Earth” for several helpful links explaining the easy ways).

Without any formal training or education, he built and flew a steam-powered rocket straight up to a height of 1,875 feet. Yes, you read that right, steam-punk-wannabe. Don’t believe it? Watch the video.

The ultimate amateur rocket flight took place March 24, 2018, outside Amboy, CA. As they say, of course, what goes up must come down. At apogee, rocket and passenger reverse direction and plummet straight down at a very scary rate of descent. Hughes had the presence of mind to deploy the parachute, but the silk canopy only slowed rocket and rider to about 350mph. ($#!%-THATS-NOT-SLOW-ENOUGH!) With the ground coming up really fast and imminent disaster about to play out in front of spectators and camera, Hughes deploys a second parachute slowing the spam-in-a-can just enough to avoid serious injury. As the ground crew helped him out of the wreckage he did express fear that he’d broken his back, which fortunately turned out to be unfounded.

Having proven he has the right stuff (or is as crazy as a loon) he’s now known around the world as Mad Mike Hughes.

The purpose of this flight, Hughes says, was to generate publicity in order to raise $1.8-2 million to build and fly a rocket to the edge of space. In a video dated January 19, 2018, on his Facebook page, (at the 3:00 mark) he says, “Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is, because I cannot disprove it. Now, do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.” His ultimate goal is to attain an altitude of 62 miles. Note that 62 miles, or 100km, is the magic number where the edge of space officially begins. However, he only needs to attain an altitude of 35,000 feet (6.6 miles, 10.6km) to see the curvature of the Earth, which he’ll photograph to prove or disprove Earth’s flatness or roundness.

Suppose he does secure enough funding. The question then becomes, if Hughes does successfully reach the minimum necessary altitude, takes pictures of the curvature of the earth, and survives to tell about it, will he? After all, confirmation that the Earth is in fact round isn’t what flat-earthers expect or want to hear. Hughes risks becoming a goat, not a hero, among his flat-earth friends.

Well, I think probably anyone gutsy enough to climb into an untested home-built rocket and launch himself into the sky is likely brave enough to publicly admit he was wrong. He’s already faced death. Telling people a truth that they may not want to hear shouldn’t be that much harder. Another question is, will flat-earthers listen to and believe one of their own?

My initial reaction to this story was to laugh at this improbable DIY-space-age Don Quixote story. I thought it was a real hoot. But Hughes, while not exactly articulate, is neither stupid nor cowardly. After all, his rocket took a fair amount of gray matter to build and nerve to fly. (It does seem likely he had help to build it, but so far I haven’t seen anything adressing that point). As I watched a few videos (especially his Facebook monologue) he came across as sincere, honest, gutsy, and like the conquistador, ready to fight a battle that really didn’t need to be fought, except out of honor.

Conquistador there is no time
I must pay my respect
And though I came to jeer at you
I leave now with regret

— Procol Harum, “Conquistador”

My attitude toward Hughes has changed. Laughter’s been replaced by respect. I hope he achieves his goal and takes his pictures. More so, I hope he doesn’t kill or injure himself.

Question of the night: Would you like to ride a rocket?

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.