Felix Baumgartner Sounds Off on NASA, Sir Richard Branson
By Mark Hughes
Given the way in which he achieved his fame, it is perhaps not unreasonable to assume that Felix Baumgartner would be a champion of space exploration.
But the Austrian daredevil, who travelled to the edge of space before jumping back to Earth, has branded Nasa's aim to discover whether there is life on Mars a waste of money.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mr Baumgartner, who became the first man to break the sound barrier after leaping from 128,100ft above the Earth almost two weeks ago, urged the US Government to divert the money it spends on Mars toon environmental projects on Earth.
"A lot of guys they are talking about landing on Mars," he said. "Because [they say] it is so important to land on Mars because we would learn a lot more about our planet here, our Earth, by going to Mars which actually makes no sense to me because we know a lot about Earth and we still treat our planet, which is very fragile, in a really bad way.
"So I think we should perhaps spend all the money [which is] going to Mars to learn about Earth. I mean, you cannot send people there because it is just too far away. That little knowledge we get from Mars I don't think it does make sense."
Earlier this year Nasa landed the Curiosity rover on Mars. The plutonium powered robot will explore the surface of the Red Planet for upwards of 10 years at a cost of $2.5 billion (£1.5 billion).
"That is tax money," Mr Baumgartner, 43, added. "People should decide 'are you willing to spend all this money to go to Mars?' I think the average person on the ground would never spend that amount of money – they have to spend it on something that makes sense and this is definitely saving our planet."
Mr Baumgartner, whose Red Bull Stratos mission was watched by more than seven million people around the world, also took aim at Sir Richard Branson after the Virgin boss hinted that his company could attempt to break the Austrian's record.
Writing on his blog, Sir Richard said that he was approached by someone in 2005 who wanted to jump from 400,000ft, saying: "Such a record is theoretically possible. However, the timing wasn't right."
Sir Richard, whose company Virgin Galactic is attempting to become the first to send commercial flights to space, added: "Nevertheless, the technology of space travel and exploration is moving forwards every day. Who knows, the next record leap could one day be from Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.
"Haven't had a challenge myself for a while. Could be fun for Virgin to give Red Bull a run for their money."
But Mr Branson's comments were dismissed by Mr Baumgartner.
"It sounds like kind of a joke because it looks like he wants to use our positive momentum and gain publicity on his side and that is kind of lame." He said that the idea of someone leaping from 400,000ft was "completely insane".
"You have seen on TV how hard it is to go up 129,000ft and how hard it is to come down.
Mr Baumgartner's jump saw him break records for the highest manned balloon flight and the highest skydive as well as becoming the first man to break the sound barrier outside of an aeroplane.
His feat made him a household name, but he says he has struggled to adapt to his new found fame.
"Of course my life has changed because now everybody knows who Felix Baumgartner is," he said. "When I landed in JFK, New York City, a lot of people were waiting outside. There were people outside the restaurant for two hours and when I left my hotel at 4am there were people waiting outside.
"It's kind of scary it's kind of cool if you think about it. I have no privacy anymore. People waiting outside at 4 in the morning; it's unbelievable."