Daredevil 'Mad Mike' Hughes dies in crash of homemade rocket in California

LOS ANGELES — "Mad Mike" Hughes, a self-styled explorer and daredevil bent on proving that the Earth is flat, was killed over the weekend when his homemade rocket crashed in the California desert.

"Michael 'Mad Mike' Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket," the Science Channel, which was planning to feature him on an upcoming series called "Homemade Astronauts," said on Twitter.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch, and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey," the network said.

Hughes gained fame in 2002 when he jumped a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine 103 feet at a speedway in Perris, California, a stunt certified by Guinness World Records as "longest limousine ramp jump."

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Mike Hughes built rockets to prove his theory that the Earth is flat. (Picture credit: Inside Edition)
In this Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22, 2020, photo "Mad" Mike Hughes rocket takes off, with what appears to be a parachute tearing off during its launch near Barstow, Calif. Hughes, a California man who said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is flat or round has died after his home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth. "Mad" Mike Hughes, 64, was killed on Saturday after his rocket crashed. (Mercedes Blackehart via AP)
In this Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22, 2020, photo "Mad" Mike Hughes rocket climbs his his home-built rocket before its launch near Barstow, Calif. Hughes, a California man who said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is flat or round has died after his home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth. "Mad" Mike Hughes, 64, was killed on Saturday after his rocket crashed. (Mercedes Blackehart via AP)
"Mad" Mike Hughes' home-made rocket launches near Amboy, Calif., on Saturday, March 24, 2018. The self-taught rocket scientist who believes the Earth is flat propelled himself about 1,875 feet into the air before a hard-landing in the Mojave Desert that left him injured. (Matt Hartman via AP)
In this Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22, 2020, photo "Mad" Mike Hughes rocket plunges back to earth near Barstow, Calif. A California man who said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is flat or round has died after his home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth. "Mad" Mike Hughes, 64, was killed on Saturday after his rocket crashed. (Mercedes Blackehart via AP)
Mike Hughes is rescued after a crash-landing in 2018. (Picture credit: Inside Edition)
"Mad" Mike Hughes is carried on a stretcher after his home-made rocket launched and returned to the ground near Amboy, Calif., on Saturday, March 24, 2018. The self-taught rocket scientist who believes the Earth is flat propelled himself about 1,875 feet into the air before a hard-landing in the Mojave Desert that left him injured. (Matt Hartman via AP)
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A videotape of the incident, in which the rocket fails shortly after liftoff in the Mojave Desert outside Barstow, California, was posted to Twitter by Justin Chapman, a freelance journalist who was filming the launch.

"Mad Mike Hughes just launched himself in a self-made steam-powered rocket and crash landed. Very likely did not survive," Chapman wrote in a caption to the video. Barstow is about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Chapman told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that Hughes, 64, might have been knocked unconscious during launch.

"The parachute ripped off at launch," Chapman told the paper. "So the rocket went straight up in an arc and came straight down."

The video appears to show the launcher attached to the back of a truck. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office told the Times that it would conduct an investigation into the incident.

The silver-haired daredevil took to trying to prove that the Earth was disc-shaped, and built rockets in a quest to launch himself past the Karman line, the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. He suffered minor injuries while surviving several launches that achieved modest altitudes, starting with one to 1,374 feet in 2014 and another in 2018 that got to just 1,875 feet.

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