On March 26, 2018, “Mad” Mike Hughes, a 61-year-old limo driver and “self-taught” rocket scientist strapped himself into a homemade rocket and blasted off. Moments later he reached an altitude of nearly 2,000 feet before making a hard landing in the Mojave Desert. Hughes suffered some back pain and was taken to the hospital but was otherwise believed to be fine.
The Californian Daredevil Nicknamed “Mad” Mike
But what would lead a man to build a homemade rocket and attempt to fly it into space?
Hughes is a “flat-earther,” a self-proclaimed term given to a growing number of people who believe the earth is flat, despite millions of scientific claims that state otherwise. Let’s take a look at the story of Mike Hughes and the crazy flat earth theories that led him to take a dangerous journey towards space.
Converting To A Flat Earther
It wasn’t until 2016 that Hughes decided the world was flat.
He quickly started to spread flat earth conspiracy theories around the internet and made a name for himself in the small but tight-knit flat earther community. Hughes was convinced scientists around the world have been staging fake photos and videos of a round earth and told the community he could launch himself into space and take verifiable photos of a flat earth. That’s when he launched a fundraising campaign to build a homemade rocket.
Fundraising For A Homemade Rocket
The first campaign launched by Hughes gained some decent press but managed to raise only $310.
However, post-fundraising money quickly totaled $7,875. His money was raised after some prominent celebrity supporters started to share their belief that the world was flat. With money in hand, he promised to complete several rocket journeys that would eventually culminate in a trip into outer space. But there were issues from the very start.
Trouble From The Start
Hughes claimed in November 2017 that the Bureau of Land Management had given him verbal permission to launch his rocket pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. A spokesman for BLM said no records of that discussion were found.
To circumvent a launch on public property, Hughes moved his rocket onto private land, just four miles from his initial launchpad. The BLM said he still needed permits and Hughes released a defiant statement: “I’m a daredevil. I’m not much for authority or rules.” His initial plans were definitely ambitious.
The Initial Plans
At first, Hughes planned to reach a speed of 500 miles per hour. He would then launch a second time from a balloon that would be stationed 20 miles above the ground, at which point he would reach above the atmosphere into outer space.
He attempted to launch his first rocket on February 3, 2018, but the device failed to ignite and his plans were pushed back more than a month as he fixed several issues with his homemade rocket. Amazingly, he managed to get a rocket off the ground.
His Rocket Finally Launches
A successful launch, from a mobile home trailer bed, on March 25, 2018, likely impressed many people who didn’t think an untrained rocket scientist could pull off such a feat.
Unfortunately, he managed to travel only 1,875 feet before losing momentum. Hughes and his rocket made a rough landing in the Mojave desert. Hughes launched his steam-powered rocket at a sharp angle to avoid falling back to earth on public land. His rocket reached a speed of 350 mph. He was taken to the hospital but reported only “minor” back pain from his publicity stunt. But why would someone do this in the first place? Flat earth conspiracy theories have increased in recent years. Let’s take a look at what they believe.
The Biggest Lie Of Them All?
The main flat-earther theory goes like this…
The Earth is a large disc that is situated around a central point we call the Arctic Circle. To keep water on the flat there is a giant 150-foot-tall wall of ice that encapsulates the large disk. The theorists posit that NASA employees have been tasked with guarding the ice wall. They believe this “border patrol” is responsible for making sure nobody finds the wall, climbs over top, and fall off the face of the earth.
So what about gravity? They have an answer for that little problem as well.
Gravity Is An Illusion To Trick Billions Of People
Despite enough physics to make our heads spin, flat-earthers continue to go against thousands of years of scientific knowledge which they consider a long-standing cover-up.
They believe earth’s gravitational pull is an illusion. The theory states that objects do not accelerate downward; instead, the disc of Earth accelerates upward at 32 feet per second squared. They believe this is the result of a “mysterious” force known as dark energy which is part of an ongoing “universal acceleration.”
Even Flat-Earthers Can’t Agree On Planetary Acceleration
The fractured group, built on the backs of skeptical conspiracy theorists, can’t agree on whether Einstein’s theory of relativity would allow Earth to accelerate upward indefinitely.
Some believe if this was the case the planet would eventually surpass the speed of light. Despite their skepticism of scientific discovery, they seem to still believe that Einstein’s laws apply in their alternate version of reality. But this isn’t all they disagree on. There are alternate flat-earth theories.
So How Did We Get Round Pictures Of Our Planet?
For every ounce of round earth proof, our friends in the Flat-Earth Society have a ludicrous answer.
One of their theories states that photos of the globe have been photoshopped. They also believe that GPS devices are rigged to make airplane pilots believe they are flying in straight lines when in fact they are flying in circles above a disc.
The theory revolves around the idea that every company with a satellite in orbit have convinced their employees to go along with the plan and hide the truth from the general public. The theory would require the support of employees numbering in the tens of thousands. Their lack of understanding about physics doesn’t help, let’s examine that issue.
It’s Basic Physics But They Don’t Believe It
Some flat-earthers have taken to bad math to explain their theories.
The goal is simple, confuse those people who don’t understand mathematics while presenting them with jargon that seems smart. Conspiracy theorist D. Marble flew on a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Seattle, Washington on May 1, 2017. He took a 23-minute and 45-second time-lapse video and then questioned why the plane’s nose didn’t dip to “compensate for curvature” of the Earth. He argued the plane would have dipped its nose to compensate for 5 miles of curvature during his 203-mile trip.
He examined the air bubble in his level which he noted: “remained level.” Commentors on social media were quick to point out that gravity would pull the plane back towards earth which keeps both the plane and level perpendicular to gravity. When all else fails they rely on the Zetetic Method of research.
The Zetetic Method
When all else fails, simply believe in a process that was developed by a 19th-century flat-earther.
This method, an alternative to the scientific method, relies on making “logical deductions” based on empirical data. Flat Earth Society vice president Michael Wilmore told Life’s Little Mysteries that “in Zetetic astronomy, the perception that Earth is flat, leads to the deduction that it must actually be flat.” Essentially flat-earths have taken the stance that if you believe it, it must be true. But what about other planets and stars? They have another theory.
But What About Planets And The Stars?
There are numerous theories about the “flat disk” Earth but what about other observable planets, our own moon, and other stars?
Flat-earthers generally believe those bodies hover around our planet in a dome-shaped firmament above the earth. They also believe those bodies are actually located much closer to Earth than they really are. They have yet to prove this theory but hold strong in their beliefs. And then there are the four seasons. What happens during Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter?
But The Seasons! How Do They Exist?
How do we have different seasons if the sun would shine down on the entire planet at the same time?
The chart above is used by flat-earthers to show how the sun moves around the planet at different degrees of rotation. They essentially believe the sun makes different rotations during the time of year, allowing for changes in daylight and other variables. For every question, there is another non-scientific, non-mathematically explained diagram to show non-believers. They even believe forests are fake and no longer exist. Yes, you heard that right.
No Forests On Flat Earth Despite What You Can Obviously See
This is a crazy but real belief developed in 2016 and believed by thousands of flat-earthers around the world.
The theory states that we have “forests,” which are actually just low-lying bushes, “the impoverished remains of an ecologically rich world that held 40-mile high trees,” according to Inverse Science. Trees, the theory says, used to have trunks two miles across. The theory then points to flat top mountains which they believe are the remnants of behemoth trees, cut down by impossibly large machines. The theory claims that our original forests were destroyed in a great war or by advanced ancient technology and a desire by the ‘powers that be’ to conceal the truth about the Earth being flat.
But Why Would The Flat Earth Lie Exist In The First Place?
The motive for world governments’ to conceal the truth is laughable at best.
Flat-earthers had this to say on their official flat-earther website: “In a nutshell, it would logically cost much less to fake a space program than to actually have one, so those in on the Conspiracy profit from the funding NASA and other space agencies receive from the government.” The group fails to explain this conspiracy further and lack any evidence to prove their belief. But there is also a more nefarious reason for convincing people the earth is flat.
An Elite Group Of World Leaders Are Tricking Our Senses
From November 9 to 10th, 2017, hundreds of people gathered for the Flat Earth International Conference.
Mark Sargent, a prominent flat earth YouTube personality, told attendees that the round earth theory was adopted by “the elite” who “propagated the “lie” that the world is round and exists in an infinite universe of billions of planets, many with a chance of hosting alien life.” He claims these men were attempting to “distance humans from God and usurp his role on Earth.”
He believes that re-establishing our planet as the center of the universe is the “only way to reclaim humanity’s identity and liberty in this corrupt society.” He adds, “If you could be lied to about the very ground you stand upon and convinced not to believe your very own senses (all of which supposedly point to a flat earth), then you could be lied to about anything.”
But Why Do They Believe?
Part of this belief is steeped in an attempt to fight against mean-world syndrome.
The idea that TV, movies, and radio, make the world seem worst than it is. “The reason they embrace these notions that the Boston Marathon bombing or Sandy Hook never happened, [is that] they don’t want to live in a world that innocent school children can go to school and end up dead on a classroom floor,” Ninamary Maginnis told Motherboard. Maginnis attended the Flat Earth conference in the hope of reconnecting with a niece who had fallen into the flat-earther trap. But it’s also about celebrity endorsements.
A Small Group Of Celebrities Support The Theory
NBA star Kyrie Irving, B.o.B., Shaquille O’Neal, and Tila Tequila are among the group of athletes, musicians, and semi-famous quasi-celebrities who believe the earth is flat.
B.o.B. has gone so far as to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise $1 million with the hopes of proving the earth is flat. He only raised $6,893. His goal was to “purchase and launch multiple weather balloons and satellites into space, for experimental exploration.” The rapper turned flat-earth donated $1,000 of his own money.
Here’s The Kicker
Flat-earthers regularly claim that travel to Antarctica is banned because of a group of secret worldwide government agencies that desperately need to keep the round earth lie going.
In reality, there are cruise ships that travel to the area. There are also a surprising number of adventurers and researchers who travel by land across the area. Visit a flat-earther discussion board and you’ll quickly realize they don’t believe travel to the area is possible, even though a simple cruise ship search will prove otherwise and allow them to travel to the area nearly any time of the year.