Daredevil Mike Hughes was killed Saturday when a rocket he'd built crashed in the California desert. "The parachute ripped off at launch," a witness said. "So the rocket went straight up in an arc and came straight down" with Hughes still in it, the Los Angeles Times reports. The rocket landed about a half-mile from the launch site near Barstow. Dozens of people were watching; the stunt was being filmed for an upcoming Science Channel series, Homemade Astronauts. Hughes' plan was to reach an altitude of about 5,000 feet and take photos to show that the Earth is flat, per CBS. His PR person said the flat Earth talk helped bring Hughes, 64, publicity and sponsors. "I don’t think he believed it," Darren Shuster said, adding, "That was a PR stunt we dreamed up."
Hughes, who called himself "Mad Mike," had survived stunts for decades, including jumps in a limousine. He went 1,800 feet up in a 2018 rocket launch and wanted to build a rocket to take him 62 miles up, to the point where outer space and the Earth's atmosphere meet. Saturday's launch was intended to bring attention to that effort, per the Discovery Channel. "The flat Earth thing is like everything else to me," Hughes told CBS in 2018. "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." (Read more daredevil stories.)