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Self-taught rocket scientist sets sights on space to prove Earth is flat, not round

Seth Borenstein, December 7, 2017 6:27PM AP

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Mike Hughes with his steam-powered rocket. Picture: AP media_cameraMike Hughes with his steam-powered rocket. Picture: AP

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Self-taught rocket scientist “Mad” Mike Hughes is preparing to launch himself into space in a bid to prove the Earth is flat.

The 61-year-old limo driver plans to climb into his homemade steam rocket and travel 1.6km over the ghost town of Amboy, California in the US.

“I’m a daredevil,” Mr Hughes said.
“I’m not much for authority or rules.”

How “Flat Earth” believers think the world looks. Picture: supplied media_cameraHow “Flat Earth” believers think the world looks. Picture: supplied

The backyard scientist will televise the launch on his YouTube channel.

He is propelling himself into the air to prove his belief that the world is flat. People who believe this, contrary to current scientific understanding, believe the “Flat Earth” is a giant, flat plane, with Antarctica forming a large ice wall around the circumference.

Conspiracy theorists’ understanding of the “Flat Earth” places the North Pole in the centre of the map.

But more than 2000 years ago Greek philosopher Aristotle declared the Earth round and that has been widely supported since then by past and present scientists and sailors.

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan famously circumnavigated* the globe from 1519 to 1522, an impossible feat if the world was indeed flat.

Retired NASA astronaut Dr Jerry Linenger orbited the globe more than 2000 times over four months he spend in space in 1997.

The Earth from space in 2014. Picture: AFP /NASA media_cameraThe Earth from space in 2014. Picture: AFP /NASA

“When I am in space, it is a sphere. It is a curve. The Earth is not flat,” he said.

“I circled it every 90 minutes and it is a real thing.”

As for the amateur rocket launch?

“Good luck, I hope he doesn’t blow something up,” Linenger said.

“Rocketry, as our private space companies found out, isn’t as easy as it looks.”

Jerry Linenger with other NASA astronauts in space. Picture: NASA media_cameraJerry Linenger with other NASA astronauts in space. Picture: NASA

Daredevil Hughes assembled his contraption* at the “Rocket Ranch” in Apple Valley, California, a five-acre property he leases. He found the aluminium for his rocket in metal shops and constructed the rocket nozzle* out of an aircraft air filter. His project has cost him roughly $20,000, which includes a motor home he bought online that he converted into a 17m ramp, which takes about two days to assemble.

“We’re almost all set,” he said.

“I think the world needs this — somebody out there to question everything, and put their money where their mouth is and put it all on the line. ”

GLOSSARY
circumnavigated:
travelled around

contraption: device

nozzle: top

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Activity 1.
List all of the evidence in the story that tells us that the earth is round.

Think of other things that show us that the earth is round and add them to your list.

Extension:

Plan and write a creative story that starts with: “Five, four, three two, one … lift off! Mike’s rocket blasted into the air …”

Time: allow 50 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: Science, Critical and Creative Thinking, English

Activity 2.
In the story, Mike Hughes says he thinks the world needs “somebody out there to question everything”.

Do you agree?

Plan and write paragraphs explaining what you think about this.
Use examples to help to make your points more convincing.

Extension:

Do you know how rockets work?
Find out and use the information to create a diagram showing how a rocket is able to fly. Don’t forget to use labels and text to make your diagram clear.

Time: allow 120 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: Ethical Capability, English, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.

EXTRA RESOURCES

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WHAT’S HIDDEN UNDER EARTH’S CRUST?

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