Daredevil “Mad Mike” Hughes was killed when his homemade, steam-powered rocket crashed shortly after takeoff near Barstow, California, supporters said.
Hughes, 64, was attempting a “cosmic quest to explore the final frontier on a shoestring budget” for the new Science Channel series “Homemade Astronauts,” producers said in a statement Saturday on the channel’s website.
“Michael ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey.”
Footage of the launch appeared to show parachute separating from the rocket seconds after takeoff. Moments later the rockets falls to the ground.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the launch was not a licensed event and the rocket did not have an FAA airworthiness certificate.
Hughes, a flat-earth conspiracy theorist, and business partner Waldo Stakes built the steam-powered rocket designed to launch Hughes 5,000 feet into the air. The launch was supposed to be the first step toward a more ambitious goal to launch “Mad Mike” more than 60 miles into the air, clearing the Karman Line — the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
The duo was still developing a plan for the second launch. Saturday’s launch was a steppingstone to raise awareness for their project, the statement said.
Saturday’s launch was one of three to be featured in “Homemade Astronauts,” a series that follows three self-financed teams.
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Hughes made news in March 2018 when he propelled himself about 1,875 feet into the air on a homemade rocket near Amboy, California, before crash-landing in the Mojave Desert. For that blast, the former limo driver converted a mobile home into a ramp and spent months overhauling his rocket in his garage.
“This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways,” Hughes said of his rocket after that crash.
In 2002 he set a Guinness world record with a 103-foot jump in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limo at a California speedway.