The countdown to launch creeps closer and there's still plenty for self-taught rocket scientist Mad Mike Hughes to do: Last-second modifications to his vessel. Pick up his flight suit. Leave out enough food for his four cats — just in case anything happens.
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. His project has cost him a total of $20,000, which includes Rust-Oleum paint to fancy it up and a motor home he bought on Craig's List that he converted into a ramp.
His first test of the rocket will also be the launch date — Saturday , when he straps into his homemade contraption and attempts to hurtle over the ghost town of Amboy, California. He will travel about a mile at a speed of roughly 500 mph.
"If you're not scared to death, you're an idiot," Hughes said . "It's scary as hell, but none of us are getting out of this world alive. I like to do extraordinary things that no one else can do, and no one in the history of mankind has designed, built and launched himself in his own rocket.
"I'm a walking reality show."
The daredevil/limo driver has been called a little bit of everything over his career — eccentric, quirky, foolhardy. Doesn't bother him. 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.