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Mike "Mad Mike" Hughes, the limo driver turned self-taught rocket scientist/astronaut, died yesterday at the age of 64, NBC News confirmed today. The famous daredevil was in the middle of filming a new reality series for the Science Channel entitled Homemade Astronauts when his own rocket crashed to Earth in the middle of the California desert.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike Hughes’ family and friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch, and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey," the Discovery-owned Science Channel said in a statement obtained by SYFY WIRE.
First announced last July, Homemade Astronauts was said to follow "a group of colorful DIY rocketeers are taking their own path to space." The show was slated to premiere later this year.
Hughes and his rocketeering partner, Waldo Stakes, were developing "a manned rocket to space, designing a 'Rock-oon' – part rocket, part balloon – that they hope to use to get Mike to the Karman line, the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space at about 62 miles high." To help raise money and awareness for this ambitious project, the duo planned "to first launch Mike 5,000 feet high in a steam-powered rocket."
Hughes' fatal crash—which involved that very steam-powered rocket—is said to have occurred around 2 p.m. PT yesterday on private property in the proximity of Barstow, California, which falls under the jurisdiction of San Bernardino County.
"A man was pronounced deceased after the rocket crashed in the open desert during a rocket launch event," San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told NBC.
Aviation investigators under the San Bernardino sheriff are currently looking into the incident.
In 2018, Hughes, who began his launches in an effort to prove that the Earth is flat, made headlines by hitting 1,875 feet in the Mojave Desert with a rocket he made in his garage.
"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," Hughes said at the time. "Am I glad I did it? Yeah. I guess. I'll feel it in the morning. I won't be able to get out of bed. At least I can go home and have dinner and see my cats tonight."