A daredevil trying to prove the Earth is flat has been killed in a homemade rocket crash in California.
Michael Hughes - who went by the moniker “Mad Mike” - was attempting to launch his steam-powered rocket to an altitude of 5,000ft (1,525m) from a site in the desert north-west of Los Angeles but crashed 20 seconds after take-off.
Mr Hughes, 64, eventually wanted to prove his Flat Earth theory by taking photographs of the curvature of the planet - or lack of curvature under his theory - from space.
The stunt was being filmed for a Science Channel programme called Homemade Astronauts.
The programme confirmed his death, tweeting: “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.”
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
San Bernadino Police Department has not released Mr Hughes’ identity but has confirmed a man had died in a rocket crash at 2pm on Saturday (10pm UK time).
Video of the launch shows Mr Hughes' rocket arc off to the right almost immediately after take-off, with what appears to be the parachute falling away from the craft.
The rocket then plummets nose-first to the ground.
The crash happened in open desert near Barstow, a town north-west of San Bernadino.
San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner public information officer Cindy Bachman said: “A man was pronounced deceased after the rocket crashed in the open desert during a rocket launch event.
“Medical aid was staged for the launch and was on scene immediately.”
Mr Hughes had built the rocket with the help of partner Waldo Stakes and the pair were one of three teams featuring in the Science Channel programme Homemade Astronauts.
Mr Hughes had previously taken-off in a homemade rocket in March 2018, reaching a height of 1,875 feet (571m) before what was described as a hard landing.
The limo driver was taken away on a stretcher by paramedics but said he only suffered a sore back.
He reached an estimated speed of around 350mph before pulling his parachute. However he had to deploy a second one because the craft was plummeting too quickly.
He said at the time: “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.
“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.”
Homemade Astronauts was to follow self-financed, self-made teams in their quest to reach the Karman line, the invisible ‘line’ 62 miles (100km) above the Earth’s surface considered as the beginning of space.
Hughes outlined his quest to prove the Earth was flat to CBS News seven months after his 2018 mission.
He said: “The Flat Earth thing is like everything else to me.
“I just want people to question everything. Question what your congressman is doing, your city council. Question what really happened during the Civil War. What happened during 9/11.”
He said he had built his homemade rocket through “trial and error”, adding: “You don't get a lot of second chances, though, in the rocket business.”
This story is being updated…