LOS ANGELES - "Mad Mike" Hughes, a self-styled explorer and daredevil bent on proving that the Earth is flat, was killed over the weekend when his homemade rocket crashed in the California desert.
"Michael 'Mad Mike' Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket," the Science Channel, which was planning to feature him on an upcoming series called "Homemade Astronauts," said on Twitter.
Michael 'Mad Mike' Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket. Our thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch & Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey pic.twitter.com/GxwjpVf2md- Science Channel (@ScienceChannel) February 23, 2020
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch, and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey," the network said.
Hughes gained fame in 2002 when he jumped a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine 103 feet at a speedway in Perris, California, a stunt certified by Guinness World Records as "longest limousine ramp jump."
A videotape of the incident, in which the rocket fails shortly after liftoff in the Mojave Desert outside Barstow, California, was posted to Twitter by Justin Chapman, a freelance journalist who was filming the launch.
"Mad Mike Hughes just launched himself in a self-made steam-powered rocket and crash landed. Very likely did not survive," Chapman wrote in a caption to the video. Barstow is about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
Chapman told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that Hughes, 64, might have been knocked unconscious during launch.
"The parachute ripped off at launch," Chapman told the paper. "So the rocket went straight up in an arc and came straight down."
The video appears to show the launcher attached to the back of a truck. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office told the Times that it would conduct an investigation into the incident.
The silver-haired daredevil took to trying to prove that the Earth was disc-shaped, and built rockets in a quest to launch himself past the Karman line, the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. He suffered minor injuries while surviving several launches that achieved modest altitudes, starting with one to 1,374 feet in 2014 and another in 2018 that got to just 1,875 feet.