LOS ANGELES (CBS Local/AP) – If you’re someone who has adopted the belief that the Earth is flat, how do you test your theory?
A California man plans to launch himself in a homemade rocket Saturday, Nov. 25, so he can get a better look at our pancake-shaped planet.
“Mad” Mike Hughes, a 61-year-old limo driver and self-taught rocket scientist, has spent the last few years building his own steam-powered rocket out of whatever he could find. Hughes plans to test his homemade contraption for the first time in the Mojave Desert.
Hughes’ $20,000 project has one major sponsor, Research Flat Earth. Hughes is also a flat earth believer who says he hopes to build a larger rocket in the future which will take him into space so he can see the shape of the world with his own eyes.
“I don’t believe in science,” Hughes said. “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.”
This isn’t Hughes’ first time propelling himself into the sky with a rocket he constructed. He jumped on a private property in Winkelman, Arizona, on Jan. 30, 2014, and traveled 1,374 feet. He collapsed after that landing — the G-forces taking a toll — and needed three days to recover.
“It’s scary as hell, but none of us are getting out of this world alive. I like to do extraordinary things that no one else can do,” Hughes added.
Hughes constructed his latest rocket at the “Rocket Ranch,” in the San Bernardino community of Apple Valley. It’s a five-acre property he leases from Waldo Stakes, the CEO of Land Speed Research Vehicles who’s currently working on a project to make a car travel 2,000 mph.
Their relationship formed a few years ago when Hughes approached Stakes about building a rocket. Stakes receives plenty of these sorts of requests, but this one stood out because Hughes was building it himself.
Hughes doesn’t make all that much money — $15 per hour as a limo driver, plus tips. That’s why he’s scrounged for parts, finding the aluminum for his rocket in metal shops and constructing the rocket nozzle out of an aircraft air filter. He gave it a good varnish of cheap paint, and his launch pad is attached to a motor home he bought for $1,500.
The location of the jump will be Amboy, a ghost town in the Mojave Desert and along historic Route 66. The fictional town of Radiator Springs in the Disney movie “Cars” was loosely based on Amboy.
Hughes got permission from the town’s owner, Albert Okura, who purchased the rights to Amboy in 2005 for $435,000. The launch will take place on an air strip next to a dilapidated hangar.
“It is absolutely the most wacky promotional proposal I have had since I purchased the entire town in 2005,” said Okura, who’s also the founder of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain. “He is a true daredevil and I want to be part of it.”
On the morning of the launch, Hughes will heat about 70 gallons of water in a stainless steel tank and then blast off between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. He plans to go about a mile — reaching an altitude of about 1,800 feet — before pulling two parachutes. They’re discouraging fans — safety issues — but it will be televised on his YouTube channel. He said he’s been in contact with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Bureau of Land Management.
The bewildering flat-earther movement has gained momentum after notable celebrities and NBA players have come out to claim the world was flat. Rapper B.o.B actually started a GoFundMe page to pay for a satellite to observe the Earth’s shape. In two months, the rapper has raised less than $7,000 of his $1 million goal.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)