Last week, we covered the ambitions of “Mad Mike” Hughes, a limo driver with dreams of proving everyone wrong about the shape of the Earth. Alternately, Mike Hughes may be an opportunist, one who converted to Flat Eartherism after discovering the Flat Earth community (with members all around the globe, natch) was willing to contribute a great deal of funding to his rocket research. But opportunist or crackpot, Mike Hughes is still determined to launch his rocket. It turns out that the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) just wasn’t as excited about his plans as he was.
The BLM put a stop to Hughes’ rocket launch last Saturday, cheerlessly informing the would-be rocket “scientist” that he lacked an appropriate permit to launch himself roughly 1,800 feet into the air at a distance of one mile. Earlier reports, including ours, stated that he wanted to go a mile high; it now appears he’s targeting 1,800-2,000 feet and wants to travel a mile over the Earth. (Also, what kind of permit does one need for individual rocket launches?)
“You’ll need to fill out a 1056A; ‘Potentially Suicidal Impulse Expressed via Rocket Launching’.“
Mike’s stated long-term desire is to build a rocket capable of traveling high enough to observe (or disprove) the curve of the Earth, thereby validating the scientific delusions of a group of people who believe in a vast, millennia-long conspiracy stretching from the reports of Phoenician sailors who circumnavigated Africa as part of an expedition commissioned by Pharaoh Necho II (610-595 BC) to NASA astronauts. The fact that NASA astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong were Freemasons was sufficient to pin them as being involved in “the roots of the deception.” No plausible explanation is offered for how dozens of other astronauts across the past 50 years who were not Freemasons came to the same conclusions.
It’s not at all clear, however, Hughes could ever reach his target altitude with the type of steam-powered rockets he’s building. Steam-powered rockets have a low specific impulse and have never been used for anything approximating an orbital or sub-orbital flight. There are also numerous practical considerations when building a rocket or hybrid rocket plane that can operate efficiently that high in the air. Hughes’ 2014 tests, which used parachutes that hadn’t operated in 20 years (one of them failed to deploy), simply wouldn’t cut it for an aircraft in suborbital flight.
There’s a reason why Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos decided to fund major rocket companies, as opposed to building homemade rockets in their backyards (Musk, according to Hughes, is a “giant fraud“). It’s not because they couldn’t afford to literally do so, but because to perform the kind of reliability tests and detailed analysis required for ongoing spaceflight, you need buildings and equipment that can’t be justified on a solo flight budget.
And don’t forget, all of this is orchestrated by a man who claims not to believe in science. “I don’t believe in science,” Hughes told 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.”
Godspeed, Mike Hughes. If something goes wrong out there, divine intervention is really your best option.