410 kilometers (254 miles) above the Earth. That’s where the International Space Station floats. What if you happened to be all the way up here but suddenly fell off and had to skydive down to Earth? What would happen?
Is something like this possible? How fast would you travel from this height? And what would happen once you got back to Earth?
The highest skydive in the world happened from 38 kilometers from Earth. The skydiver reached a speed of over 1,300 km/h (834 mph) and was in freefall for nearly four minutes and 20 seconds.
Our jump from the ISS would be 10 times as high as that one. What would happen once you jumped off?
Well, once you jumped off, it wouldn’t be a simple descent down to the ground. That’s because the ISS is moving at 27,600 km/h (17,150 mph). That’s around 30 times faster than a commercial airplane.
And if the ISS is moving at this speed, you would be too! So instead of going straight down to the ground, you’d be circling the Earth while moving at this velocity. You could potentially circle it for years before your velocity decreased enough to descend down.
But since we only have a couple of minutes left in the video, we’re going to give you a jetpack with just enough fuel to stop the velocity. Ah, much better.
But just because we’ve stopped you from going so fast doesn’t mean this skydive would be any easier. Thanks to Earth’s gravitational pull, you’d now be thrust towards the planet’s surface instead of around it.
As you plummeted down towards the Earth’s surface, you’d be moving at over 2,000 km/h, depending on your weight. And at this speed, you would be experiencing over six G-forces.
During the longest skydive ever, the diver involved experienced four G-forces, comparable to a pretty intense roller coaster. And fighter pilots experience six G-forces when flying their jets. But that takes a lot of practice and also only happens for short periods. Suddenly experiencing six G-forces with no prior practice would feel like the most intense thrill ride of your life.
And this would only be the start of your speed. As you move through Earth’s atmosphere, your momentum would continue to increase. You’d be moving so fast that you’d compress the air in front of you, causing it to heat up to temperatures as high as 1,600 °C (2,900 °F).
As you continued heading toward Earth, you’d be experiencing more and more G-forces. This would be like having eight times the amount of gravitational force you’d typically experience on Earth. This kind of energy would likely cause you to lose consciousness, your blood vessels would burst, and your organs would be shifting around.
This pain would be incredibly excruciating. But if you could hold out for just a bit longer, your velocity would begin to slow down as the density of the air increased, giving you more resistance. If you somehow managed to wake up around this time at around 2,500 m (8,200 ft) above sea level, you could deploy a parachute.
And now you could enjoy the sights as you come down to Earth. Just remember that once you land to get medical help immediately. You’d likely have some internal bleeding and maybe some broken bones due to all the gravitational pressure you just experienced.
- “Yes, There Is Gravity In Space”. Allain, Rhett. 2018. Wired.
- “Free Falling: the science of weightlessness”. Lisa, Heppler. 2018. Science In The News.
- “How Big Is The International Space Station?”. Melina, Remy. 2010. livescience.com.
- “International Space Station Facts And Figures”. 2020. NASA.
- “Space Debris And Human Spacecraft”. 2020. NASA.
- “How High Is A Tandem Skydi”. 2020. skydivedanielson.com.
- “Felix Baumgartner breaks record for high-altitude skydiving”. 2012. New Atlas.