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News Link • California

Self-taught rocket scientist blasts off into California sky

• Pat Graham and Michael Balsamo

He came back down in one piece, too — a little dinged up and his steam-powered vessel a little cracked up.

Still, mission accomplished for a guy more daredevil than engineer, who drew more comparisons to the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote from his critics than he did to iconic stunt man Evel Knievel.

"Mad" Mike Hughes, the rocket man who believes the Earth is flat, propelled himself about 1,875 feet into the air Saturday before a hard landing in the Mojave Desert. He told The Associated Press that outside of an aching back he's fine after the launch near Amboy, California.

"Relieved," he said after being checked out by paramedics. "I'm tired of people saying I chickened out and didn't build a rocket. I'm tired of that stuff. I manned up and did it."

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