A viral video shows the final moments of the life of daredevil “Mad” Mike Hughes, who was killed this weekend after a self-made rocket malfunctioned during a flight and sent him crashing back to earth.
The launch on Saturday was to be featured on a new Science Channel series called Homemade Astronauts and was meant to send Hughes 5,000 feet into the air. But the launch quickly went wrong, with the video showing the parachute meant to guide the self-made rocket back to earth tearing away from the aircraft. The video then followed the rocket as it continued climbing into the air before falling back to earth and crashing in the Barstow, California, desert.
As NPR reported, the fatal crash took place on Hughes’ third homemade rocket launch. The report noted there was a steel ladder attached to the rocket’s launch ramp in order to allow Hughes to more easily enter, but the rocket hit the ladder on its launch. This ripped off the rocket’s parachute can and sent it off course.
“He went way up in the sky,” said freelance journalist Justin Chapman, who witnessed the crash and captured it on video.
“I’m not sure how high. But his goal was 5,000 feet. Then it did an arc and then came straight down and nose-dived into the desert floor about half a mile away from the launch pad.”
As the New York Post noted, Hughes had gained notoriety for being part of the so-called “Flat Earth” movement. Hughes previously said he wanted to fly high enough to see the edge of the earth and determine whether it was flat or round.
“I don’t want to take anyone else’s word for it,” Hughes had said after a 2018 launch in which he reached 1,800 feet into the air. “I don’t know if the world is flat or round,” he added.
A video of the crash recorded by Chapman was posted to Twitter, where it quickly found viral attention. Many shared the video and it also reached the top of the link-sharing site Reddit, which made note of Hughes’ adherence to the “Flat Earth” movement.
But Chapman, who was writing a profile on Hughes, said that the daredevil’s public statements doubting whether the earth is round were really meant to get publicity for his ultimate goal of building what he called a “rockoon” — a half rocket, half balloon that could travel 62 miles into the air, taking him to the edge of space. As the NPR report noted, Hughes was well-known for his self-promotions that included a radio show and even a run for governor of California.