While many people dream of going to outer space or seeing what's beyond the Earth's atmosphere when they're kids, few ever get the opportunity to do so. Though NASA and SpaceX both come to mind when considering space exploration programs, there are many teams around the country who are building rockets and attempting their own smaller, self-funded launches.
During the two-and-a-half year period that the series filmed, Mike Hughes died when a rocket launch did not go as expected. Though his death highlighted the dangers of the industry, Ky never considered giving his dream up.
The Minnesota resident spoke exclusively with Distractify about how he first became interested in building rockets, how he got his son involved in the show, and the ways in which Mike's death affected him.
Who is Ky Michaelson from 'Homemade Astronauts?'
The 82-year-old Minnesotan, whose nickname is "Rocketman," fell in love with space when he was a kid. He started subscribing to science magazines in the '40s.
"My father used to make telescopes, so consequently, in my bedroom, I had all of these star stickers that would glow at night," he told Distractify. "Every time I went to bed, I was looking straight up at stars."
The Discovery+ star has had severe dyslexia since he was a kid, but he shared that nobody really understood what he was going through while he was in school. As a result, many of his peers insulted his intelligence, which he noted gave him "a challenge to succeed."
After all, his mantra is "If you can dream it, you can do it."
Ky dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, but he never stopped believing that he could achieve his dreams of building rockets.
When he was a teenager, he got a chemistry set and learned how to make black powder. From there, Ky began doing research, self-educating, and asking others questions about how to make rockets and propulsion systems.
He was a stuntman in Hollywood for a time, but eventually shifted his full focus to building rocket-powered vehicles.
In 1997, Ky received a license from the federal government to build and launch a rocket into space. He was the first civilian to get such a license, which he said opened the door for others to do so.
Since then, Ky has spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" on his various rocket projects, and the venture has now become a family business.
He works with his son, Buddy Michaelson (who was involved in rocket building "from the second he was born") and entrepreneur Kurt Anderson. On Homemade Astronauts, the three created a rocket sled, which Ky said reached a speed of 241 miles per hour.
Though Ky's team was able to successfully execute their project, a terrible tragedy befell one of the others on the show.
Ky shared how he felt when he learned that "Mad" Mike Hughes had died.
Though the three main stars of Homemade Astronauts were all based in different states, Ky had known Mike Hughes prior to the show (he has never met Cameron Smith).
Mike died in February of 2020 because his parachute launched prematurely during a rocket launch. The tragedy was filmed for the show, and it rocked those in the homemade rocket community.
When Ky learned about his co-star's death, he was, understandably, upset. While he recognized that the industry is always risky, it was still a blow to learn that a friend had died.
"What we're doing is pretty darn dangerous. I felt pretty bad about it," Ky said. "I knew Mike, and I had many conversations with him. I had flown up to California and spent time with him. It hurts."
The news was upsetting on a personal level, but Ky never considered taking a step back from his career.
"I'll build rockets until the day I die, let's just put it that way," Ky concluded. "It's already been my life, so why stop now?"
Homemade Astronauts is available to stream on Discovery+ now.