“Michael ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes tragically passed away today during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket,” the Science Channel, which was planning to feature him on an upcoming series called “Homemade Astronauts,” said on Twitter.
“Our thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch & Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey,” the network said.
A videotape of the incident, in which the rocket appears to fail shortly after take-off in the Mojave Desert outside Barstow, California, was posted to Twitter by Justin Chapman, a freelance journalist who was filming the launch.
“Mad Mike Hughes just launched himself in a self-made steam-powered rocket and crash landed. Very likely did not survive,” Chapman wrote in a caption to the video. Barstow is about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
Chapman told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that Hughes, 64, might have been knocked unconscious during take-off.
“The parachute ripped off at launch,” Chapman told the paper. “So the rocket went straight up in an arc and came straight down.”
The video appears to show the launcher attached to the back of a truck. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office told the Times that it would conduct an investigation into the incident.
Hughes gained fame in 2002 when he jumped a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine 103 feet at a speedway in Perris, California, a stunt certified by Guinness World Records as “longest limousine ramp jump.”
The silver-haired daredevil later took to trying to prove that the earth was flat and building rockets in a quest to launch himself past the Karman line, the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.