Flat-Earther to Launch Himself in Homemade Steam Rocket Saturday

Well, this should liven up everyone's Thanksgiving weekend.

A flat-Earth enthusiast who claims not to believe in science plans to launch himself 1,800 feet (550 meters) above California's Mojave Desert in a homemade steam rocket on Saturday (Nov. 25), the Associated Press reported.

The daredevil, 61-year-old limo driver "Mad" Mike Hughes, built the rocket and its launch ramp himself for about $20,000, according to the AP. If all goes according to plan, the contraption will accelerate to a top speed of 500 mph (800 km/h) and travel about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the launch site, a ghost town called Amboy. (Hughes will make a parachute-aided touchdown.)

Hughes buys into the flat-Earth conspiracy theory, according to the AP; indeed, the rocket's chief sponsor is a group called Research Flat Earth. Saturday's liftoff won't get Hughes nearly high enough to gather any photographic evidence about our planet's shape — which is an oblate spheroid, by the way — but such a mission may be in Mad Mike's future.

He and a collaborator have discussed building a "rockoon" — a rocket that launches after being carried aloft by a balloon — that could get up to an altitude of 68 miles (109 km), the AP reported.

Hughes' refusal to accept the truth about Earth's shape might make you skeptical about Saturday's launch, and about the future rockoon project. If so, his own words probably won't do much to bring you around.

"I don’t believe in science," Hughes said, according to the AP. "I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction."

The entire story is definitely worth your time. You can read it here.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

Mike Wall
Space.com Senior Writer
Michael was a science writer for the Idaho National Laboratory and has been an intern at Wired.com, The Salinas Californian newspaper, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. He has also worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.