"Research Flat Earth," is emblazoned in bold lettering on the side of “Mad” Mike Hughes' red steam-powered rocket. For the last several years, Hughes, 61, worked to assemble the device and its base using salvage parts and a motor home converted into a ramp.
As Pat Graham reports for the Associated Press, the self-taught rocket scientist will strap into his rocket for the first time on Saturday, when he will attempt to travel over the ghost town of Amboy, California. It will be the first time Hughes, who is a limo driver, will test the rocket.
The purpose of this daredevil feat: to "prove" that the that the Earth is flat, reports Avi Selk of The Washington Post. “It’ll shut the door on this ball earth,” Hughes said in a fundraising interview, Selk reports. Hughes believes in the conspiracy theory that astronauts faked the Earth's shape—an idea that is, of course, false.
If all goes to plan, Hughes will zip across about a mile at a speed of roughly 500 mph—powered by 70 gallons of water being heated in a stainless steel tank. He plans to blast off between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. local time, according to the AP.
After the launch, Hughes will announce his plans to run for governor of California.
He built this latest rocket at his “Rocket Ranch,” a leased property in Apple Valley, California. He searched for parts in metal shops and constructed the rocket nozzle from an aircraft air filter, Graham reports.
To prepare for the launch, he got permission from Amboy town owner, Albert Okura, where the rocket will launch on an air strip. “It is absolutely the most wacky promotional proposal I have had since I purchased the entire town in 2005,” Okura tells the AP. “He is a true daredevil and I want to be part of it.”
Hughes is aware of the riskiness of the endeavor. “If you’re not scared to death, you’re an idiot,” Hughes tells Graham. “It’s scary as hell, but none of us are getting out of this world alive. I like to do extraordinary things that no one else can do, and no one in the history of mankind has designed, built and launched himself in his own rocket.”
Hughes has built and tested homemade rockets before. In 2014, he traveled 1,374 feet in Winkelman, Arizona, on a rocket he built. He collapsed and needed three days to recover, Graham writes. Hughes recorded that experience in a Youtube video, shown above.
It’s not just rockets that get his attention, either. In 2002, he also achieved fame for making a Guinness World Record jump of 103 feet in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limo, Eric Berger of Ars Technica reported last year. At the time of that story, he was getting ready to launch a rocket across the country’s second-largest canyon.
Despite his engineering skills, Hughes says he doesn’t believe in science. “I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust,” he tells Graham. “But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.”
He tells Graham he also has plans to build a rocket that takes him to space down the road. If he survives the event, perhaps his views from the sky will help shape his thinking about the roundness of the Earth.