WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- “Mad” Mike Hughes, the self-taught rocket scientist who pledged he would fly into the sky, launched himself near Amboy, California and landed in the Mojave Desert.
- On Saturday, the rocket man who believes the Earth is flat flew himself about 1,875 feet into the air and came back down in one piece.
- The 61-year-old Hughes transformed a mobile home into a ramp and modified it to launch his steam-powered vessel from a vertical angle.
Mission accomplished for a guy who is being compared by his critics to the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote.
“Relieved,” Hughes said when asked how he was after being checked out by paramedics. “I’m tired of people saying I chickened out and didn’t build a rocket. I’m tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it.”
The launch was initially scheduled in November. It was canceled several times due to logistical concerns with the Bureau of Land Management and some mechanical issues. For months, the limo driver has been toiling in overhauling his rocket in his garage.
Saturday came and people thought it’s going to be another cancellation, due to the wind and his rocket was losing steam. But sometime after 3 p.m. PDT, Hughes’ rocket took off into the sky, with no countdown.
Hughes reached an approximated speed of around 350 mph before pulling his parachute. He was plummeting too fast that he needed to deploy a second one. The rocket’s nose broke in two places when it landed, just like it was designed to do.
“Am I glad I did it? Yeah. I guess. 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,” Hughes said.
“Mike branded us as ‘Rocket Town.’ It was amazing,” said Albert Okura, owner of the land where the launch was made.
Hughes’ detractors call him a crackpot for planning the launch in a homemade machine. Some even posted things like “He’ll be fine” with Wile E. Coyote’s picture strapped to a rocket.
Jerry Linenger, a retired NASA astronaut made this comment: “I hope he doesn’t blow something up. Rocketry, as our private space companies found out, isn’t as easy as it looks.” Linenger orbited the Earth more than 2,000 times during four months in 1997.
And of course, there’s Hughes’ belief that the world is flat.
“Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is,” Hughes said. “Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”
His future plans? Run for governor.
“This is no joke,” he said. “I want to do it.”