The science is pretty well settled when it comes to the shape of Earth — it’s roughly spherical like all other planets. A small but dedicated group of people known as “flat earthers” dispute this seemingly obvious fact of life, and one of them has a steam-powered rocket to prove it. Sixty-one-year-old limo driver and stuntman “Mad Mike” Hughes was blocked from launching this contraption a few months ago, but he’s now preparing for a slightly modified launch in order to prove once and for all the Earth is flat. His opinion on whether it rests on a turtle’s back is unclear.
Flat-earthers like Mad Mike believe the entirety of the scientific community is lying about the shape of the planet for some reason or another. Mad Mike himself has told reporters that he believes there is no difference between science and science fiction. Well, he apparently thinks Sir Isaac Newton was onto something with the laws of motion, because that’s the guiding principle behind his steam-powered rocket.
Mad Mike has conducted a few unmanned test flights of his rocket, but he’s flown in some smaller ones. The current steam rocket, which includes “Research Flat Earth” emblazoned on the side, should reach a maximum altitude of 1,800 feet after the 500-mile-per-hour ascent. According to Hughes, this will allow him to prove the Earth is flat. After reaching the necessary altitude to smash the scientific conspiracy, the rocket will deploy what can only be called the most flimsy parachute in the world for its trip back to Earth.
The last launch attempt in November 2017 was canceled when the Bureau of Land Management said Mad Mike could not fly his rocket over public land, but he thinks he’s worked out a solution. On February 3rd, Hughes will launch from private property straight up, which should prevent him from crossing into public airspace.
While 1,800 feet sounds like substantial altitude, that’s significantly less than a mile. There are places on Earth that place you much higher above sea level, and commercial airliners fly around 30,000 feet. It’s unclear what Mad Mike has planned here, as you need to reach around 35,000 feet to perceive the curvature of the Earth. Maybe he’s going to hit 1,800 feet, say it’s flat, and declare victory over science?
Whatever happens with this DIY steam-powered rocket, Hughes says there will be no spectators allowed. All video footage will be captured and released by Hughes and his team.