Hughes, who preferred the sobriquet “Mad Mike” but was also known as “Batshit Mike” and “What the actual fuck, Mike?” died instantly without proving that the Earth was flat, as was his ambition. He did, however, prove that the ground was hard.
Mike, while alive, was quoted as saying he did not believe in science, because science was the source of all round-earth thinking. Instead he believed in “fluid dynamics, gauges, levers, and loud noises, you know, rocket stuff” (paraphrased). “But Mike, trying to build a rocket without believing in science is like trying to play with Legos without believing in plastic or primary colors,” his friends would tell him. “There’s other stuff you could try to prove right here on the ground. You could try and prove Stormy Daniels is a virgin, or that Don Quixote was an actual Spaniard who tilted at windmills because he believed they caused cancer.”
But Mike said, “Who the fuck is Don Quixote?” and went stubbornly on, until gravity yanked him stubbornly down.
It’s not as if Mike did not have achievements to boast of. He was the Guinness record-holder for distance achieved jumping a stretch limousine (103 feet). He also failed to jump the Snake River Canyon just like his hero, Evel Knievel, failed to do. He had also flown his rocket up 1800 or so feet without killing himself, which was touted as a fantastic achievement, mostly by Mike, because most birds that are not labeled “Butterball” can fly that high. He died trying to hit an altitude of 5,000 feet, which many people on a commercial flight can reach before they get pissed off that they can’t recline their seat.
Mike preferred steam power for his rockets because he wanted to avoid government red tape. The FAA regulates regular rockets, the kind that actually can take you into space, but not the glorified restroom hand dryer that Mike wanted to ride into the cosmos, because the FAA has strong opinions about what works and what doesn’t. Steam is for locomotives, and when trains leave the surface of the earth, something is going seriously wrong, a lesson Mike failed to learn.
The Science Channel sponsored Mike’s efforts, for a show called “Homemade Astronauts.” Now that Mike’s dead, they ought to be deeply ashamed of themselves for encouraging him, but if they’re not, maybe they can sponsor a revived season of “Jackass.” They can call it “Science Jackass” and dedicate it to Mike’s memory.
Talk about a legacy.