As one Florida Flat Earth conspiracy theorist put it this week, ‘Space travel is pretty much a hoax.’

Justin Harvey was driving through Orlando on Tuesday when he saw a rocket ship in the sky, leaving a trail of billowing white smoke on its way high above the heavens.

He didn’t bother to check the news afterward because he figured the Falcon Heavy rocket, launched by SpaceX and now considered the world’s most powerful operational spaceship, probably wound up in the Atlantic Ocean.

“When I saw it, I was ready to laugh,” he said. “Space travel is pretty much a hoax.”

The 30-year-old University of Central Florida alumnus is a Flat Earth conspiracy theorist, or a Flat Earther, and he doesn’t believe that NASA has ever been into space, or that its archive of photographic evidence showing the Earth’s spherical shape is anything but Photoshopped propaganda.

As for the red Tesla Roadster convertible – owned by billionaire Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk – that was released into orbit by Falcon Heavy, Harvey believes it was either parked in a film studio or stitched together using computer-generated imagery.


Across the U.S. in recent years, online contingencies of Flat Earthers have grown exponentially, and as their platform has expanded, their comfort in publicly expressing their beliefs has, too.

Last year, the sold-out Flat Earth International Conference attracted several hundred people – Harvey included – to Raleigh, North Carolina. This year, it’ll be in Denver.

And on Feb. 17, Harvey, who works as an Uber and Lyft driver, will give a lecture at the Meeting of the Minds in Miami. Despite majoring in business and real estate at UCF, Harvey has gained some influence in the Flat Earth sphere.

Speaking to the topic’s popularity, several smaller Flat Earth events in Miami are scheduled in the coming weeks. Flat Earthers also have celebrities within their ranks, including Boston Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving and rapper B.O.B.

Several social media users took to Twitter after the Falcon Heavy Launch, and the release of video showing the Tesla floating through space with a globular Earth in the background was an apparent victory over Flat Earthers. But Harvey said the video of the Tesla seemed fake to him, as there were no stars, satellites or debris to be found.

“I know the Earth is not a ball. Look, we live in Florida, dude,” said Jeffrey Main, 49, a Flat Earther living in Palm Harbor, Florida. “If it’s not observable, it’s not science. It’s theory.”


Despite the resounding evidence proving Earth’s spherical shape, Flat Earthers counter with their own arguments, like the inability to observe the curvature of the Earth even from the top of high-altitude weather balloons, water’s lack of convexity and the lack of convincing evidence of the Earth’s motion around the Sun. They generally believe the world is a large, stationary disk surrounded by an ice wall.

“They have an explanation for a lot of this stuff,” Harvey said. “It’s a lot of blah blah, big words … We’re told you live on a ball and you can’t leave unless you’re an astronaut.”

Harvey and Main said they used to believe in mainstream astrophysics, but that changed about two years ago when they were challenged online.

“At first I laughed it off,” Harvey said. “It took a while, but I finally cracked. I looked into it and I was blown away, to be honest.”

Both Harvey and Main, who met online, said the problem lies in the public’s over-reliance on mainstream science and the government.

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