A daredevil inventor who believes the Earth is flat blasted himself around 570 metres (1,875ft) into the air in a rocket before landing with a bump.
‘Mad’ Mike Hughes, 61, a US limo driver from California, was slightly injured when his steam-powered rocket launch ended with a hard landing in the Mojave Desert on Saturday.
“This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways,” said Mr Hughes, who said the crash left him with an aching back.
The daredevil blasted off shortly after 3pm local time with no countdown or fanfare.
Mr Hughes reached an estimated 350mph before activating his parachute.
He was forced to deploy a second chute as his rocket, emblazoned with the words “research flat earth”, was falling too fast.
The daredevil landed bluntly with the rocket’s nose breaking in two places – as it was designed to do.
“Am I glad I did it? Yeah. I guess,” he said.
Mr Hughes uses his Facebook page to address those who doubt his rocket-making skills and his theory that the Earth is flat.
“Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is,” he said in one video. “Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”
Mr Hughes had converted a mobile home into a ramp and worked on the rocket in his garage.
The launch had been scheduled for November last year, but issues over land management and mechanical problems pushed the date back.
Saturday’s event was at risk but Mr Hughes pushed on despite his rocket losing steam and high winds.
“I’m tired of people saying I chickened out and didn’t build a rocket. I’m tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it,” he said.
A video of the launch was filmed by Noize Tv and uploaded to Mr Hughes’s Facebook page. A shorter clip, which features a countdown set to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, has been uploaded to YouTube.
As hype around the experimental launch mounted, retired NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger told reporters he hoped Hughes “doesn’t blow something up”.
Mr Linenger, who orbited the globe more than 2,000 times during four months in 1997, added: “Rocketry, as our private space companies found out, isn’t as easy as it looks.”
Mr Hughes has a Gofundme page set up to raise money to help with his expenses. At the time of writing, it had raised $110 (£78) out of a $10,000 (£7,070) goal over the course of a month.
The Saturday launch is “a wild stunt designed to raise awareness for my ultimate challenge, THE space launch,” Mr Hughes explains on the money-raising site.
He wants to build a “Rockoon,” a rocket that is carried into the atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon, then separated from the balloon and lit. This rocket would take Hughes about 68 miles up.
Mr Hughes says he previously built and launched a rocket in Arizona which saw him travel 419 metres (1,374ft) high. He collapsed after that landing and needed three days to recover.
His next challenge? Mr Hughes says he will be applying to run for governor of California.