On one level, Mike Hughes is a nut for believing that the World Is Flat. The Ancient Greeks first determined that the Earth is a sphere around the time of Pythagoras (around the 6th Century BC). About three hundred years later, the Hellenistic astronomer Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth within an error of about five percent. Since then no educated person, even in the Middle Ages, has believed that the world is flat. Direct observation starting with Magellan’s epic voyage around the world to every orbital space mission ever mounted, including the International Space Station, tends to confirm it.

On another level, Hughes is positively crazy by most measures. That evaluation is based on his desire to ride a rocket to a high enough altitude to “confirm” that the world is flat and all those images from NASA are forgeries. He made his first flight recently, and, astonishingly, survived.

The flight of the steam rocket

Hughes has been building a personal rocket, using steam as thrust, since 2016. According to the Associated Press, after numerous delays and a lot of mocking on social media, Hughes achieved lift off from a makeshift launch site near the ghost town of Amboy, California, 200 miles east of Los Angeles in the middle of the Mohave Desert. He ascended to 1,875 feet in the air before landing with the aid of a pair of parachutes.

Aside from an aching back, Hughes was pronounced in good health by a team of paramedics.

Whatever his crockpot motivations, Hughes has become a daredevil on the order of the late Evel Knievel. He has also become something of a rocket pioneer, having flown a Steam Rocket to a significant altitude, then landing and surviving to tell the tale.

Space futurists have proposed steam rockets using nuclear energy for interplanetary travel. Water is a fairly common commodity, residing as ice on the moon and in asteroids, allowing for frequent refueling.

What is next for ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes?

Hughes did not ascend to a high enough altitude to confirm what the real shape of the Earth is.

For that purpose, he proposes building a “Rockoon,” a rocket that would be carried to the upper atmosphere by a balloon before firing its engines to achieve an altitude of 68 miles -- high enough to see whether the Earth is flat or round.

If Hughes raises the funds and actually accomplishes what he proposes to do, he will have accomplished quite a feat. The look on his face when he sees the curvature of the Earth (as has every other traveler who has soared that high) will be priceless.