Supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner has finally come home after his death-defying, record-breaking leap from the edge of space.
The Austrian former military parachutist met reporters in his home city of Salzburg on Saturday — nearly two weeks after his plunge from a balloon to the New Mexico desert made him the first person to reach supersonic speed without travelling in a jet or spacecraft.
Mr. Baumgartner says it’s been a “very turbulent” few days and weeks and that preparing to jump was a “very, very overwhelming” experience. He says his jump is the result of years of planning — “Courage and this absolute will to accomplish something paid off.”
Mr. Baumgartner’s historic skydive has earned him a place among the rich and famous in U.S. society.
After breaking the sound barrier on his way to recording the highest and fastest skydive with a 39-km, 1,342-kmph leap on October 14, Mr. Baumgartner has landed in the U.S. celebrity scene.
Gossip magazines have been quick to latch on to the hunky 43-year-old’s new-found fame, with comparisons now being drawn with his compatriot, movie star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mr. Baumgartner was till recently on the U.S. talk show circuit. He has also become a new member of New York’s exclusive nightlife scene, attracting autograph hunters and paparazzi alike.
The Austrian has now experienced what it is like to be a top celebrity, he wrote on his Facebook page after a New York media tour that included being on the talk show of Jimmy Fallon and meeting actor Gerard Butler.
“Baumgartner is now playing in the same league as a young Arnold Schwarzenegger when he presented his muscles in Los Angeles,” the German magazine Bunte wrote. Celebrity gossip website TMZ.com, which usually follows the likes of Britney Spears or Kim Kardashian, has also begun tracking the skydiver’s movements.
Star blogger Perez Hilton has also reported on Mr. Baumgartner, who appears to be enjoying all the adulation and attention. He published a picture of the article on his Facebook page, which is followed by more than 1.4 million fans.
As for the former paratrooper’s private life, his one-year relationship with former German Playmate of the Year Gitta Saxx ended in 2008. He has been together with current girlfriend Nicole Oettl for the past three years, and rumour has it that he is ready to start a family.
In future, Mr. Baumgartner wants to work as a helicopter pilot in California and Austria, doing public service rescuing people from mountains, he said.