Update for Nov. 26: This launch has been postponed to no earlier than Tuesday (Nov. 28) after a federal agency refused to grant the stuntman permission to conduct the experiment on public land. He is now moving the launch site to privately-owned land a few miles up the road on Route 66, he told The Washington Post.
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.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael 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. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.