Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner is ready to take the plunge again. This time it's a leap of a different kind – he's jumping into marriage with his girlfriend Nicole Oetl (pictured far right).
Forty-three-year-old Felix will wed Nicole, a former model and beauty queen, next year, and the Austrian couple plan to make their home in Arbon, Switzerland. The daredevil had apparently put off proposing to his 26-year-old girlfriend until after his death-defying skydive at the weekend, over fears that something could go wrong. But once his feet were safely back on the ground, he was free to pop the question to Nicole, whom he met at a party in 2006. Nicole was watching along with the rest of the world as her beau plummeted to earth at speeds of up to 834mph from the edge of space. The Austrian made history by jumping from a balloon 24 miles from the surface of the earth.
He became the first freefall diver to break the sound barrier, also breaking the record for the highest-ever manned balloon ascent. Four minutes after he jumped off the impossibly high platform, the daredevil opened his parachute, and less than ten minutes later he was safely back on the ground. It had taken him two-and-a-half hours to reach his descent point, 128,100ft above the New Mexico desert. Talking about the jump, Felix recalled the terrifying moment he went into a dangerous out-of-control spin. "In that situation, when you spin around, it's like hell and you don't know if you can get out of that spin or not," he said.
"The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I'd just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. "It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I’d lose consciousness." Just as experts monitoring his progress in a command centre began to worry, he finally managed to regain control of his descent. Felix, who has completed 2,600 nail-biting skydives, learned to base jump in 1995. He had previously served for five years in the Austrian army, where he was part of the parachute display team.