Daredevil 'Mad' Mike Hughes dies in homemade rocket launch filmed for TV

He was working on a TV show, "Homemade Astronauts," when his craft crashed in the California desert.
"Mad" Mike Hughes, who died Saturday, launches a homemade rocket near Amboy, California in 2018.Matt Hartman / AP
By Dennis Romero

Daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes died Saturday when a homemade rocket he was attached to launched but quickly dove to earth in the California desert.

The stunt was apparently part of a forthcoming television show, "Homemade Astronauts," that was scheduled to debut later this year on Discovery Inc.'s Science Channel.

Discovery confirmed the 64-year-old's death in a statement.

"It was always his dream to do this launch, and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey," the company said.

The mishap was reported at 1:52 p.m. on private property in the Barstow area, San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said by email. She did not identify Hughes.

"A man was pronounced deceased after the rocket crashed in the open desert during a rocket launch event," she said.

Sheriff's aviation investigators were looking into the accident.

In a statement last year, Discovery, Inc. described the forthcoming show as a look at "three self-financed teams with sky-high dreams, in their cosmic quest to explore the final frontier on shoe-string budgets."

Hughes' stunt Saturday was billed as part of a plan to raise money for another project, a planned launch to the border of space on a vehicle described as part rocket, part balloon, Discovery said.

The money-raising launch had a goal of reaching 5,000 feet into the sky aboard a "steam-powered rocket," the broadcaster said.

Hughes is known both for his homemade rockets and for his belief the earth is flat.

His desire to prove the planet is "shaped like a Frisbee" inspired his vertical endeavors, he has said. But Saturday's launch did not appear to be directly tied to Hughes' flat-earth argument.

In 2018, he successfully launched himself about 1,875 feet into the sky above the Mojave desert via a garage-made rocket.

His landing that year was softened when he deployed a parachute. In social media video of Saturday's accident, a parachute-like swath of fabric can be seen flying away from the rocket shortly after blast-off.

"This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways," Hughes said in 2018. "This thing will kill you in a heartbeat."

Dennis Romero
Linda Takahashi contributed.