While the vision from the International Space Station is an extraordinary one, jumping off of it wouldn’t be. It will be a lethal journey for any astronaut who jumps off the ISS to reach Earth’s surface.
Majorly skydivers jump off a plane flying 3.8 km above the ground. But imagine jumping off something even higher, like the International Space Station.
Alas! If you don’t possess a super-suit like Tony Stark, it isn’t going to end well. But let us assume Iron Man lends you one.
Consequence? You wouldn’t fall straight down. Rather, it’ll consume a minimum of 2.5 years before you reach the surface.
Height isn’t the principal reason for your fall taking so long. Nevertheless, if you feel like a regular skydiver, it would only take about 2 hours.
Bottom-line is, you don’t fall straight down. You fall into orbit due to speed. The ISS may be termed a station, but it’s barely stationary. It’s originally moving 12 times faster than a jet fighter.
Once you shoot anything at that speed on Earth, by the time it was about to hit the ground, it would miss! Similarly, the ISS isn’t floating in space, it’s descending towards Earth and missing! Once you jump off the ISS, you’re originally moving at that same speed. So you end up in orbit, too, at least momentarily.
Presently, despite the higher position, the ISS is pushing through a very thin atmosphere. That friction slows it down. That is why the station fires engines to maintain speed and keep from crashing into the Earth.
Unfortunately, your super suit doesn’t come with engines strapped to your feet. This has two consequences:
First, it suggests you can’t manoeuvre and have to expect that any of those 13,000 chunks of space debris won’t impale you. Second, devoid of rockets for maintaining your speed, you’ll slow down and spiral toward Earth.
But it won’t be fast. The Chinese space station Tiangong 1, for example, about 2 years to fall out of orbit. On the ISS, you’re higher up, so you’ll take approximately 2.5 years. Once you strike the atmosphere, your long wait is over. It’ll be gone time.
Once you re-enter, you have one goal to slow down. You’re travelling at hypersonic speeds. So, if you deployed a parachute now, it’ll be tattered into pieces.
That isn’t the only challenge. Falling through the atmosphere at such break-neck speeds precipitates a lot of pressure on your suit, minimum 8Gs of force, which is 8 times the gravity you feel at sea level.
If you’re falling feet first, that’ll push the blood away from your brain and towards your feet. So you’ll possibly pass out unless you’re one of those fighter pilots who train to combat up to 5Gs.
If you don’t pass out, you may be bothered about the freezing temperatures up here. But, it turns out, your suit is more possibly to melt instead of freeze. Hope you all know how you can warm your hands by rubbing them together?
Now think about your super suit rubbing against air molecules in the atmosphere at least 6 times the speed of sound. You’ll heat up to about 1,650 ºC, which is enough hot to melt iron!
Actually, the heat is so intense, it strips electrons from their atoms creating a pink plasma around you that will subsequently destroy the suit.
If that isn’t enough of a challenge, the drag will rip off your limbs. Thankfully, Tony Stark has your back, and somehow, your super suit supports with you intact. At 41 km up you’ve now reached the world record for highest skydive. In 2014, Alan Eustace sported a pressurized space suit as he rode a balloon up to this height. He broke the sound barrier on his way down before deploying his parachute and landed about 15 minutes after the drop.
However, you’ll be falling much faster than Eustace, about 3 times the speed of sound. So, actually, you’re not going to slow down enough to securely deploy your chute. That’s where Iron Man can come to our rescue one last time. By 1 km up you’ve reached the territory of ordinary skydivers who don’t require fancy suits to survive.
At this point, your parachute can do its job and it’s finally time to land softly.