Self-taught “rocket scientist” plans to launch over ghost town. Hughes is a 61-year-old limo driver who’s spent the last few years building a steam-powered rocket out of salvage parts in his garage.
He’s a bit too old to receive the Darwin Award. At least he doesn’t have to worry about science getting in the way of his dreams.
He believes what he believes, including that the Earth is flat. He knows this thought is a conundrum, given that he’s about to launch himself into the atmosphere. “I don’t believe in science,” said Hughes, whose main sponsor for the rocket is Research Flat Earth. “I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula. There’s no difference between science and science fiction.” His project has cost him $20,000, which includes Rust-Oleum paint to fancy it up and a motor home he bought on Craigslist that he converted into a ramp.
On the morning of the launch, Hughes will heat about 70 gallons of water in a stainless steel tank and then blast off between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. He plans to go about a mile — reaching an altitude of about 1,800 feet — before pulling two parachutes. They’re discouraging fans — safety issues — but it will be televised on his YouTube channel . He said he’s been in contact with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Bureau of Land Management.
Following his jump, he said he’s going to announce his plans to leap into the race for governor of California.
His future plans include an excursion into space. He and Stakes have already brainstormed on a “Rockoon,” which is a rocket that, rather than being immediately ignited while on the ground, is carried into the atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon, then separated from the balloon and lit. This rocket will take Hughes about 68 miles up.
First things first — this jump over a ghost town. He will be tinkering with his rocket right up to takeoff.
“A guy who builds his own rocket in his garage, about to jump a mile is pretty cool,” Hughes said. “It’s the most interesting human-interest story in the world.”