A dreamer prepares for his rocket flight

Sure, go ahead and call Mike Hughes all the names he’s probably heard before but we’re here today to celebrate his passion, an antidote to America’s pervasive can’t-do spirit.

This is Mike’s passion: A steam-powered rocket that he intends to launch on Saturday in California. Mike will be inside, the Associated Press says.

We feel no less proud of the human spirit with Mike than we did with Gabriel Nderitu, the Kenyan who had no idea about aerodynamics but built his own airplane, and the one to replace the one he crashed in, several times.

Dreams are easy. Physics is hard.

Mike is a limo driver and says he taught himself rocket science.

“I don’t believe in science,” said Hughes, showing a casual interest in a definition of science. “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.”

Hughes only maks $15 an hour, plus tips, and it’s pretty hard to build a rocket on $15 an hour. So Hughes, like Gabriel before him, scrounged parts and put it all together so it sort of looks like a rocket.

And she’s definitely a looker.

“I want to inspire others — and you have to do something incredible to get anybody’s attention,” Hughes said.

If he survives his flight over the abandoned town, Hughes says he’ll run for governor California.

By the way, you may be wondering whatever happened to Gabriel Nderitu?

Not long after some U.S. pilots sent him a package of aviation books and manuals on aerodynamics, he enrolled in flight school.

  • johnepeacock

    Fascinating how the little detail of him being a “flat earther” was left out of the description, since that seems to be his sole motivation of launching the rocket 🙂

    • Barton

      I assumed that detail was evident when he said there was no difference between science and science fiction.

    • “No one in the history of mankind has designed, built and launched himself in his own rocket.”

      Sounds like motivation to me.

      • wjc

        Motivation? OK. But maybe there is a reason for no one doing that. Maybe it has to do with science. Hmmm!

        • Science doesn’t prevent anyone from building and launching a rocket.

          In this case, whatever his position is on the shape of the earth is pretty irrelevant to his desire to try.

          Nothing about this attempt, which, of course, will fail, will do anything to prove the earth is flat or round.

          Steam-powered? Heh. I love that.

          • wjc

            Sure. I get that, except you might miss some very important details if you don’t believe in science.

            He might only get one shot at it. I hope not, though.

          • Yep.

          • You know, back when I’d give rides in the plane, just before we took the runway, I’d tell the passenger, “we’re not defying any science here”. On the contrary, science is what will allow us to fly.

            People say they believe in science. But, I found their fear is greater than their knowledge.

          • wjc

            Millions of people per day have a belief in science that let them get on a commercial plane. Small plane rides require a belief in science, a belief in maintenance and a belief in the pilot. It is a more visceral experience that can cause some folks to question all of these.

          • My guess is people don’t even know what the science is, and that a plane is lifted — sucked, really — into the air courtesy of the top of a wing.

          • wjc

            You are correct, I’m sure, though many (most) people at least know that science is involved, and that it is not a myth.

          • By Saturday, there’ll probably be another.

          • fromthesidelines21

            He’s “successfully” done this once before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp2q_dKuc-c

            I don’t have a lot of confidence in his parachute for the second attempt.

          • Jeff

            Mr. Wet Blanket here, science is a process used to provide enlightenment not the underlying principles science is used to discern. He might not believe in science but sounds like he believes in physics.

          • Guest

            We were all taught planes fly because of the curve of the top of the wing. Yet a barn door could fly given enough thrust.

            Have you heard what the relative contribution to LIFT is for: the angle-of-attack (how tilted the bottom of the wing is) versus the top of wing curve?

            That is, a curved wing at horizontal LIFT versus a tilted flat board LIFT????

          • If you consider the four factors of flight: Lift, thrust, drag, weight, I would guess a curved wing has lift, a flat barn door has none. Its flight only would be provided — to the extent it is at all — by thrust. And probably not for long. If you take away thrust in a curved wing…. you can still fly (thrust being provided by lowering your angle of attack and picking up airspeed to provide more lift). You can have all sorts of fun exchanging airspeed for altitude. Can’t do that with a barn door. You can lower your angle of attack all you want, you’re still going down and going down quick.

          • Rich in Duluth

            Airplane nut, here (and a bit anal). I thought you might be interested in a couple of links to the NASA site. They describe how any shape can create some lift. Apparently, the curved top surface sucking the wing up theory, fails the science test. I learned to fly in the 60s and the “sucking” theory is the one they taught me, at that time.



          • It’s the Bernoulli Principle. Also isaac newton. Is NASA claiming the Bernoulli Principleis incorrect?

          • Rich in Duluth

            Take a look at the second link. Remember some airfoils are symmetrical and yet produce lift. The “Equal Transit” (Bernoulli’s equation) theory predicts less lift than is actually measured for a given airfoil, according to NASA. Apparently, it’s something called “flow turning” that does most of the lifting. NASA says that the speed of the air particles over the top of the wing is greater than the air along the bottom of the wing and when it gets to the trailing edge, it turns and flows down, generating lift….as I read it. I think you have to know calculus, to really understand it.

          • Guest

            That is my point, a flat barn door WOULD provide lift but only from the angle of attack. Plenty of drag too but with enough thrust (power) it would fly.

            A curved wing with zero angle of attack does provide lift, and at optimal angle of attack, a lot more lift. What is the relative contribution of the two factors is my basic question.

          • No clue. Can we know that without the weight and size of the door?

      • jon

        “No one in the history of mankind has designed, built and launched himself in his own rocket.”

        Wan Hu did it… 4,000 years ago.
        I suspect Mike Hughes will have a similar result.

      • TBH

        “No one in the history of mankind has designed, built and launched himself in his own rocket.”

        Happy Gilmore accomplished that feat no more than an hour ago.

    • Jared

      If you ask me, it’s only going to prove that the turtle carrying the Earth on its back can hypnotize people into seeing curvature.

  • wjc


    He might not believe in science, but science will certainly believe in him, and gravity can really be a bummer, if you don’t believe.

  • Jim in RF

    <- This guy loves it.

    • wjc

      We’ll see how you feel on Sunday.

      • The problem of bad aviators has a way of resolving itself.

  • RBHolb

    Yes, he is a trifle eccentric. Nevertheless, I hope he succeeds.

    Building your own rocket and launching yourself in it would be pretty cool. Living to tell about it would be cooler still.

    • wjc

      There’s the rub.