'Mad' Flat-Earther's Steam Rocket Launch Grounded by Bad Water Heater Bought on Craigslist

Update for Aug. 26: "Mad" Mike Hughes remains grounded for at least the next four weeks while completing testing for his rocket. 

Flat-Earth proponent, former limo driver and amateur rocketeer "Mad" Mike Hughes planned to launch 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) into the air above the community of Amboy in California's Mojave Desert Monday (Aug. 12). But his homemade, steam-powered rocket never got off the ground, thanks to a faulty water heater that he bought off of Craigslist. 

The launch is currently postponed until possibly Saturday, Aug. 17. 

According to Hughes' publicist Darren Shuster, the faulty heater that Hughes bought for $325 off of Craigslist wasn't able to heat the water to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius), the temperature required to create the steam to propel the rocket. Hughes paid $50 for the nose cone of the rocket, which he plans to launch off the back of a semi truck he was gifted. Shuster added that no one knows where the nose cone came from or what its original intent was, but Hughes modified it for its current purpose on the rocket. The launch is sponsored by hud, a casual dating app.

"I appreciate the support, love and excitement from everybody, and a delay will not stop my mission — the rocket is in place and needs a leak plugged up, so weekend is a go," Hughes told Space.com. 

Related: 8 Times That Flat-Earthers Tried to Challenge Science (and Failed)

"Mad" Mike Hughes' rocket, taken on Aug. 12, 2019. Hughes ' launch, originally scheduled for Aug. 12,  is now postponed until possibly next Saturday, Aug. 17. (Image credit: Darren Shuster/Pop Culture PR)

Hughes, 63, previously launched in March 2018 to an altitude of 1,875 feet (572 m) aboard his steam-powered rocket, which he modified for this launch. Hughes walked away from last year's launch sore and with a compressed vertebra, so even if he is able to launch again and survive the landing, it remains to be seen how Hughes will fair after reaching new heights. 

"Mad" Mike Hughes likely attempt to launch this upcoming weekend after postponing on Aug. 12, 2019 because of a faulty water heater.  (Image credit: Darren Shuster/Pop Culture PR)

In media coverage of his 2018 launch, a number of publications stated that Hughes was launching to see Earth's curvature for himself (it is not visible at the altitude that Hughes aims to reach this month). However, Hughes told Space.com that he was launching to this higher altitude because, simply, he is a daredevil. 

"I believe the Earth is flat," Hughes said. But "this flat Earth has nothing to do with the steam rocket launches," he added. "It never did. It never will. I'm a daredevil!"

Still, soon before he attempted to launch on Aug. 11, Hughes gave another motivation for his latest launch attempt — President Donald Trump. 

This "launch is about my personal desire to inspire my fellow Americans to help make this country great again," he said in a press statement, adding that he hopes his feat will garner an invitation to the White House for himself and his launch crew.

"Mad" Mike Hughes planned to launch on Aug. 12, 2019 but had to reschedule after issues with his rocket's water heater.  (Image credit: Darren Shuster/Pop Culture PR)

"Trump is the greatest president since there's been a president!" Hughes added in the same statement. "I intend to spread the word about MAGA with my homegrown, steam-powered, manned rocket. I am the homegrown Rocket Man."

While it is difficult to pinpoint Hughes' true intentions in risking his life by launching himself into the sky, this Trump-centric re-brand may be another attempt to generate more attention and (and therefore, more funding) for his next launch, which he hopes will take him all the way to the Karman line — a boundary 62 miles (100 km) above Earth's surface that represents the beginning of space.

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.