A daredevil stunt that was allegedly part of an effort to find out the true shape of the Earth ended in tragedy on Saturday after one of the rocket’s parachutes was ripped away seconds after launch and the homemade device crash-landed in the desert.
“Mad” Mike Hughes had said in a video that the purpose of the flight was to find out whether conspiracies pushed by so-called “flat-Earthers” are true.
“I don’t want to take anyone else’s word for it,” he said. “I don’t know if the world is flat or round.”
In an interview with the Associated Press in 2018, Hughes expressed a more firm belief in flat-Earth “theory” after his first rocket launch, which ended in a rough landing and a hurt back after a faulty heater failed to get him to his 5,000-foot goal.
“Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is,” he told them. “Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”
In spite of the problems with the first launch and a scary end, the 64-year-old was determined to keep going until he could get to the edge of outer space and determine for himself what the Earth looked like. This time, however, he wasn’t as lucky. Although he had three extra parachutes aside from the one that tore off the rocket early, none of them were able to deploy.
Michael 'Mad Mike' Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket. Our thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch & Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey pic.twitter.com/GxwjpVf2md— Science Channel (@ScienceChannel) February 23, 2020
“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,” freelance writer Justin Chapman, who filmed the launch and crash, told BuzzFeed News. “Everyone was stunned when he crashed and didn’t know what to do.”
After the news broke, a man claiming to be a public relations representative for Hughes told BuzzFeed that the flat Earth stuff was merely used to gain more attention for the daredevil’s stunts and that he did not actually believe in the conspiracy theory at all.
“I don’t think he believed it,” Shuster said. “He did have some governmental conspiracy theories.
But don’t confuse it with that flat Earth thing. That was a PR stunt we dreamed up.”https://t.co/NpgWUWsCB5
— Jake Reyna (@iJakeReyna) February 24, 2020
“We used flat Earth as a PR stunt. Period,” said Darren Shuster. “He was a true daredevil decades before the latest round of rocket missions. 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 shtick.”
Regardless of what Hughes believed, his message to people was ultimately inspiring. He wanted to do something extraordinary and prove that otherwise ordinary people could achieve great things if they put their mind to it.
“People ask me why I do stuff like this and basically it’s just to convince people they can do things extraordinary with their lives,” he said in one of his videos. “And maybe it pushes people to do things that they normally wouldn’t do with their life, and maybe it’ll inspire someone else.”
RIP Mad Mike Hughes. I’m not a flat earther at all, but respect for actually acting on something he was questioning. The guts this dude had we’re incredible. He wanted to know the truth and got off his couch and tried. Getting off your ass is a victory to me. Rest in power. pic.twitter.com/p62QiruMlk— The Butcher Of Buffalo (@andycomplains) February 23, 2020
In the end, Hughes died doing what he wanted to do. He also held the Guinness world record for “longest limousine ramp jump” after spending many years as a limo driver. He had a loving family and friends and we hope he’s jumping limousines in heaven now.