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Flat Earther Survives Rocket Launch, Earth Still Round

Watch "Mad" Mike Hughes beat his own previous record by launching himself to just under 1,900 feet in a homebrew rocket.

Daniel Oberhaus

Daniel Oberhaus

Image: YouTube

After months of cancellations, the flat earth stuntman “Mad” Mike Hughes finally launched himself in his homebrew steam-powered rocket Saturday afternoon. Hughes made it to an altitude of 1,875 feet and reached a peak velocity of 350 miles per hour before deploying the rocket’s parachute and returning to terra firma.

The $20,000 rocket was emblazoned with “Research Flat Earth” and partly crowd funded by the group of the same name. It was launched from a rail attached to the back of a modified mobile home.

The launch was originally scheduled for last November, but the initial attempt was scrubbed after the US Bureau of Land Management informed Hughes that he couldn’t launch his rocket onto or from federally owned land.

According to the Associated Press, which was present for the stunt, the launch almost didn’t happen again on Saturday after the rocket started losing pressure. Not one to be deterred by safety concerns, however, Hughes climbed into the rocket and launched himself anyway, without even so much as a countdown to mark the event.

As seen in a video of the launch, everything seemed to go according to plan. Hughes’ main parachute deployed at apogee (the highest point in a rocket’s trajectory), although he had to deploy a secondary chute on his way back down to slow the rocket’s descent. Upon landing, the rocket’s nose cone split in two places as planned.

"Mad" Mike Hughes and his homebrew rocket. Image: Mike Hughes/Facebook

“Am I glad I did it? Yeah, I guess,” the 61-year old Hughes told the Associated Press. “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.”

The launch took place outside of Amboy, a ghost town bought by the owner of the Juan Pollo chicken chain in 2005. It’s located in the Mojave Desert about 150 miles from Los Angeles and the headquarters of SpaceX, which has technically launched fewer humans on its rockets than Hughes has at this point.

Saturday’s launch was the second survived by Hughes. Back in 2014, he launched himself on his first steam-powered rocket to an altitude of about 1,300 feet. That launch resulted in Hughes collapsing after landing and needing several days to recover.

Read More: Flat Earth is the Ultimate Conspiracy

Surviving two launches on your homemade rockets is a pretty impressive feat—especially when you deny basic science—but unfortunately for Hughes his stunt contributes little to the flat earth ‘debate.’ To see the curvature of the Earth you need to reach an altitude of at least 35,000 feet, but this still requires a wide field of view.

Hughes made it 5 percent of the way to this minimum threshold, but told the Associated Press he plans to launch himself from a homemade rocket that is attached to a weather balloon in the future. He said this would allow him to reach an altitude of about 68 miles, although it’s uncertain how Hughes’ gubernatorial candidacy will affect his space ambitions.