A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.
“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.
A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.
Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.
Saturday’s launch was reportedly filmed as part of Homemade Astronauts, a new TV series about amateur rocket makers to be aired on the US Science Channel. The project had to be carried out on a tight budget.
With the help of his partner Waldo Stakes, Hughes was trying to reach an altitude of 5,000ft (1,525m) while riding his steam-powered rocket, according to Space.com.
In the video of the launch, a parachute can be seen trailing behind the rocket, apparently deployed too early, seconds after take-off.
In a tweet, the Science Channel said Hughes had died pursuing his dream.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said its officers were called to a rocket launch event at around 22:00 GMT on Saturday.
The sheriff’s office said, “a man was pronounced deceased after the rocket crashed in the open desert”. Hughes’ publicist confirmed to US media outlets that it was the pilot who had been killed.
Mad Mike and his assistants built the homemade rocket in his backyard, spending around $18,000.
The rocket uses steam ejected through a nozzle for propulsion.
The daredevil, who lived in Apple Valley, made headlines internationally when he announced his intention to prove his theory that the Earth was flat.
In March last year, Hughes managed an altitude of 1,870ft (570m) before deploying his parachutes and landing with a bump.
He set a Guinness World Record in 2002 for the longest limousine jump – over 31 metres (103 ft) in a Lincoln Town Car stretched limo.
Watch the video of the rocket launch below:
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