More than three million Austrians tuned in live to Austrian space jumper
More than three million television and internet viewers in Austria tuned in live to watch Austrian Felix Baumgartner jump from the edge of space on Sunday and become the first man to break the sound barrier unaided by a vehicle.
National broadcaster ORF recorded some 2.3 million television viewers during the nine minutes that 43-year-old Baumgartner plummeted to the earth from 39 kilometres (24 miles) above New Mexico, the highest freefall jump ever made.
ServusTV, a private channel owned by Baumgartner's sponsors Red Bull that offered almost 10 hours of live broadcast, added another 830,000 viewers in a country of eight million people.
Together the two channels—the only ones providing live broadcats—made up 80 percent of viewership on Sunday.
Almost half a million people also followed the event live on the internet platforms of Servus TV and ORF.
Baumgartner broke three records with his daring jump: the highest freefall jump, the fastest freefall speed and the highest balloon flight by a human.
But these records will still have to be verified by the Supreme National Air Sport Commission (ONF) in Vienna—to establish them as Austrian records—before they can be confirmed by the World Air Sports Federation (FAI).
This could take up to two and a half months, said an ONF spokeswoman.
Austria was quick to hail Baumgartner's accomplishment.
"I warmly congratulate Felix Baumgartner on this great success, which was achieved with courage and perseverance and is finding worldwide attention," President Heinz Fischer reacted on his Facebook page almost immediately after Baumgartner had landed safely in New Mexico.
Chancellor Werner Faymann also rejoiced that the record attempt went smoothly, praising "this impressive achievement."
"Together they went to the boundaries of human possibility and of physics," he said of Baumgartner and his team.
Without exception, the front page of every Austrian newspaper on Monday featured a picture of the Salzburg native in his spacesuit, with headlines including "Success!," "A historic jump" and "Happy End."
The free daily Heute described him as a "The man of the century" while the tabloid Oesterreich spoke of "A jump for eternity."
(c) 2012 AFP