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Flat Earther dies in California rocket crash

The Associated Press

Barstow, Calif. – "Mad" Mike Hughes, who once wanted to fly a home-built rocket across the river from Detroit to Canada, has died after his latest missile blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to the ground.

Hughes had said his mission Saturday was to see for himself whether the Earth is flat.

“Mad” Mike Hughes wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is round.

In January 2015, he told The Detroit News of his goal to soar above the Detroit River, either U.S. to Windsor or the other way around, assuming he couldn't get permission for a similar crossing from south of Ottawa into New York State.

The News described him then as a "quick-speaking, high-aiming, no-punch-pulling, gray-haired private limousine driver from Ontario, California."

Rebuffed at that point by both government and private potential launch sites, he said, "Here's why nothing great happens anymore. People think of reasons to say no instead of saying yes."

A year earlier, Hughes' propane-fueled, steam-driven X-2 SkyLimo had raced up a ramp in Winkelman, Arizona, and soared 1,374 feet. "All it cost him," the News' story said, "was 21/2 days immobilized in his motor home afterward from the G-forces."

Guinness World Records had recognized him in 2002 for jumping a 3-ton, 6-door Lincoln limousine 103 feet into a pile of tires.

"I'm a pretty bright guy. I know how air moves around things," he told the News.

Hughes' launch on Saturday was made from private property. Waldo Stakes, a colleague who was at the site, confirmed that Hughes, 64, was killed.

The Science Channel said on Twitter it had been chronicling Hughes’ journey and that “thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time.”

“It was always his dream to do this launch,” the Twitter message said.

A video on TMZ.com showed the rocket taking off, with what appears to be a parachute tearing off during the launch. The steam-powered rocket streaks upward, then takes around 10 seconds to fall straight back to earth. Shrieks can be heard as the rocket plows into the desert.

Freelance journalist Justin Chapman, who was at the scene, said the rocket appeared to rub against the launch apparatus, which might have caused the mishap with the parachute.

In March 2018, Hughes propelled himself about 1,875 feet (570 meters) into the air before a hard landing in the Mojave Desert in California. He said in a video that his goal was to eventually fly to the edge of outer space to determine for himself whether the world is round.

“I don’t want to take anyone else’s word for it,” he said in the video, posted on the BBC News website. “I don’t know if the world is flat or round.”

In another video, Hughes said he also wanted “to convince people they can do things that are extraordinary with their lives.”

“My story really is incredible,” Hughes once told The Associated Press. “It’s got a bunch of story lines – the garage-built thing. I’m an older guy. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, plus the Flat Earth. The problem is it brings out all the nuts also.”

Neal Rubin of The Detroit News contributed.