Thursday, February 27, 2020

RIP Mike Hughes

Back in 2018, I covered the exploits of homebrew rocketeer and flat-earth enthusiast Mike Hughes. Hughes was a daredevil who went by the moniker "Mad Mike Hughes," and despite my article covering a well-publicized launch failure, he did have some success flying homemade steam-powered rockets. And yes, that's as dangerous as it sounds. This last week Hughes was killed in - no surprise - a rocket crash.

Daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes died Saturday, February 22 after his homemade rocket crashed into the ground outside of Barstow, California. Hughes launched himself inside the steam-powered rocket in hopes that he might sail high enough into the atmosphere to prove that the Earth is flat. He was 64.

Seconds after launch, a parachute can be seen fluttering away from the speeding rocket, which quickly turned back toward Earth. “When the rocket was nosediving and he didn't release the three other parachutes he had in the rocket, lots of people screamed out and started wailing,” Chapman told BuzzFeed News. “Everyone was stunned when he crashed and didn't know what to do.”

Hughes aimed to reach the Kármán Line, where Earth's atmosphere and outer space meet, 62 miles above the ground. From there, Hughes claimed he'd be able to tell whether the Earth is a flat disk (as he suspected) or a sphere. The steam-driven rocket included three heaters that would produce enough steam to thrust the stuntman at least 5,000 feet into the air. He hoped to reach top speeds of up to 425 miles per hour.

As I pointed out in my previous article, 5000 feet is not that much if you are trying to get into space. It's about 1/62nd of the 62 miles that you need to cover. Steam is a poor fuel for a rocket, which is why NASA doesn't use it. His last flight of 1900 feet was not even as high as the top floor of the Burj Khalifa, which clocks in at over 2700 feet.

So how Hughes planned to get high enough to see whether the Earth was flat is a real mystery. Some have speculated that the whole flat-earth thing was a ruse to get flat-earthers to fund him building and flying around in rockets - which admittedly is pretty darn cool until one of them crashes.

What I will say for Hughes is that nobody can argue that he didn't die doing what he loved. Rest in peace, "Mad Mike."

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