Self-declared Flat Earth researcher and DIY steam rocket enthusiast "Mad" Mike Hughes has finally managed to prove the haters wrong about his ability to blast himself some 571.50m into the sky without being crushed or scalded to death, the Associated Press reported on Sunday.
After the failure of two previous attempts to launch his steam-powered rocket with "RESEARCH FLAT EARTH" emblazoned on the side - first due to meddling government bureaucrats and then due to unspecified technical problems — Hughes finally managed to take off on Saturday from the Mojave Desert ghost town of Amboy, California. Video of the launch posted by AP freelancer Matt Hartman captured the moment the rocket took off, which seemed to take onlookers by surprise, including a nearby group of boys who appeared to be idly throwing rocks into a bigger pile of rocks.
Here's video from another angle shot by Amboy town manager Carlos Aceves, as well as footage of Hughes being extracted from the rocket by paramedics, via Route 66 News:
After the Bureau of Land Management nixed his first attempt for a flight path that would have taken him over public land, Hughes modified his rocket to use an improvised vertical launch platform. Per the AP, helper Waldo Stakes said that they were only able to get the steam rocket to 340 psi instead of the planned 350 psi, but went ahead with the launch anyway because Hughes wanted to avoid yet another failed attempt and dispel rumours he wasn't actually on board a previous rocket he managed to launch in 2014. Stakes estimated the speed at 563km/h.
Hughes told the AP that outside of an aching back, he was fine and felt "relieved" the rocket launch was over.
"I'm tired of people saying I chickened out and didn't build a rocket," he added. "I'm tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it ... This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways. This thing will kill you in a heartbeat."
"Am I glad I did it?" Hughes concluded. "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."
Whatever calculations Hughes, who does not "believe in science," performed are not a matter of public record. But the 563km/h estimate, accurate or not, is definitely fast enough to secure bragging rights.
The AP noted the triumphant rocketeer's future plans include building a "Rockoon," which sounds like an air-launched rocket that involves a balloon instead of a plane and is apparently intended to get him high enough into the air to test his Flat Earth theory (68 miles, well above the breathable atmosphere and the Armstrong Limit where all bodily fluids would boil away in an unpressurized environment). Also he's gonna run for governor, because sure, whatever.