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"Mad" Mike Hughes, Daredevil And Flat Earth Proponent, Dies In Rocket Launch

"Mad" Mike Hughes, the daredevil who made headlines for launching himself in his own homemade, steam-powered rockets with the aim of proving the Earth is flat has died in a tragic launch accident, the L.A. Times reported. He was 64.

Hughes was a daredevil long before climbing into the cockpit of a rocket.

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In fact, Hughes holds a Guinness World Record for jumping stretch limousines. In 2002, Hughes jumped a 6,500-pound Lincoln Town Car a distance of 103 feet at California's Perris Auto Speedway.

However, Hughes's biggest headlines came from his attempts to launch himself in his DIY rockets.

In 2018, Hughes launched himself more than 1,800 feet over the Mojave Desert.

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At the time, he told the Associated Press that he was on a mission to determine, once and for all, whether the Earth was flat or not.

"Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is," he said at the time. "Do I know for sure? No. That's why I want to go up in space."

The Earth has been known to be spherical for at least 2,000 years, but even if Hughes's attempt to reach 5,000 feet succeeded, he wouldn't have had the view he ultimately wanted.

Reaching an altitude of 5,000 feet was a step on the way to a larger goal.

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Hughes had hoped that through launches like that, a radio show on Flat Earth radio, and sponsored stunts like a cross-country limousine trip to "measure the curvature of the Earth," he might be able to raise enough money to built a vessel, part rocket and part balloon, that would take him up to the Kármán line.

The Kármán line defines the boundary between Earth and space and sits at an altitude of 62 miles (330,000 feet, 100 kilometers) above sea level.

However, according to Hughes's public relations representative Darren Shuster, Hughes wasn't much of a Flat Earther at heart.

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Shuster told the L.A. Times that it had more to do with drumming up sponsors. "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."

Nevertheless, Hughes spent countless hours building his own rockets from spare parts, and he did climb into them and launch himself into the air.

Unfortunately, Hughes's latest launch ended in tragedy.

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As his rocket left its ramp, it appeared to catch on the ladder he used to enter the cockpit. "It ripped off a parachute can, which deployed the parachute, which got caught in the thrust of the rocket and kind of took the rocket off course a little bit," said Justin Chapman, a freelance journalist attending the launch, according to NPR.

The crowd gathered below could only watch in horror as Hughes's rocket plummeted back down to Earth.

"Everyone was stunned," Chapman said. "They didn't know what to do. He landed about half a mile away from the launch pad."

The Science Channel was among those in attendance at the launch, which they were filming as part of their "Homemade Astronauts" series.

Both Shuster and Chapman said Hughes was well aware of the risks involved in his launches.

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"He knew very well, he said very often, that this thing could kill you, he was very well aware of that," Chapman told NPR. "He was a daredevil and he was driven by this compulsion to do extraordinary things and inspire people, as he put it."

"This guy knew he wasn't going to live till 80," Shuster said to the L.A. Times. "I spent a lot of hours with him. He had something in him that compelled himself to push himself further each time."

h/t: L.A. Times, NPR

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