Is It Possible To Jump From Space To Earth?

Satellite orbiting Earth, showcasing advanced space technology
Space Divers Would Need To Jump Off A Satellite Or Space Station

Skydiving is an extreme sport that puts skydivers mentally at their limits. Extreme athletes continue to break record after record for the highest jumping height. The greatest height someone could think of is jumping from space to Earth. However, is that even possible? 

As of today, it is not possible to jump from space to Earth. In fact, the highest recorded jump was performed from the stratosphere at 135,890ft (25.7 miles, 41.4 km) which is still 196,850ft (37.3 miles, 60 km) lower than space. 

However, the question arises why we cannot jump from space to earth yet and what requirement needs to be met in order to complete a space jump. And when will we be able to perform such a jump? I researched this, and this is what I found out. 

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Why We Cannot Jump From Space To Earth Yet (And What We Need To Do It) 

As of now, it is impossible to jump from space to Earth due to the following issues:

  • Accelerating enough speed to fall toward the earth
  • Protecting the jumper against the heat of 2500°F (1,370C)
  • Avoiding other objects such as meteoroids and satellites 
  • Decelerating the speed of the jumper before deploying the parachute 

Would you like to know the role the parachute plays when it comes to deceleration? Read my article about how fast a parachute opens and be surprised how it differs depending on the type of jump!

In order to dive into these challenges and how to overcome them, we can go through the jump step by step. 

Is it possible to jump from space to Earth
Issues that need to be solved to jump from space to Earth

Transporting The Space Diver To Space

It would be already possible to transport the space diver to space which begins above the Karman line at 63 miles (100km) above the Earth. However, the space diver would need to jump off something stable in space such as a satellite.

He would not be able to jump off the spaceship as spaceships are not yet designed to just open a door in space. In addition, the space diver would need to get away from the spaceship as fast as possible to not collide with it or be captured by its engine. 

Accelerating Enough Speed To Move Towards Earth

As the jumper can not simply jump from a “moving” object like a spaceship, he would need to jump from a stable object such as a satellite or space station. However, satellites or any other “stable” objects are only stable when they move in ellipses around the Earth and when the gravitational pull equals their centrifugal force (the force that pushes the object away from the Earth). 

When a space diver jumps from this object he will have the same gravitational pull and centrifugal force and therefore will also move stable around the world. In other words, he would not fall towards the earth. 

This can be solved by equipping the space diver with a rocket boost that allows him to generate speed toward the earth until the gravitational pull is strong enough to pull him towards earth i.e. he will start falling.

Speaking of falling, here is a list of how long the freefall time for different skydiving disciplines are.

If we do this, it can be argued that it is not really a space “jump” anymore but more a space flight. The space diver will also not fall in a straight line toward Earth but will follow an elliptical pattern. As a result, it will take much longer to get to Earth. 

Protecting The Space Diver Against Extreme Heats

When falling through the Mesosphere, the space jumper will be exposed to extreme heat and temperature differences. The temperature in the Mesosphere can be as low as -130° F (-90°C) but also much higher.

When falling through the air, the space diver will cause friction between the spacesuit and the air which will heat the spacesuit up. In general, it holds true that the friction and the heat increase with a higher falling speed.

Guess how skydivers manipulate their terminal velocity. It’s fascinating.

As a comparison, meteorites that enter the Mesosphere at high speed can get as warm as 2,500°F (1,370°C). Current spacesuits can withstand heat of around 500°F (260°C) so we would need to significantly increase their heat resistance.

The only way to protect oneself from higher heat with the current technology would be using a heat shield of a spacecraft. However, if we used it, it would not be a spacesuit anymore but more likely a capsule, and we could not classify it as a space jump anymore. 

Protecting The Space Diver Against Other Objects In The Mesosphere

Another challenge that is yet to be overcome is other objects that are flying around in the Mesosphere. We know that collision with other skydivers or airplanes is one of the biggest sources of accidents in normal skydiving.

Did you know that despite its risks like collisions or malfunctions, Skydiving is so much safer than driving? Be stunned by the surprising reasons.

Unlike the Troposphere (that is the part of the atmosphere where skydivers usually jump), the Mesosphere is full of objects such as satellites, space debris, and rocks.

In order to make it through the Mesosphere, the space diver either needs to wear a suit that protects him against collisions or needs to be able to evade these objects. For both, scenarios we do not have the technology right now.

Another way would be to do a proper forecast of the jumping route and make sure that there are not even the slightest objects in the way of the jumper. This is not only extremely difficult and unreliable but we also do lack the coverage to detect small objects (that still would have fatal consequences when hitting them). 

Decelerating The Speed Of The Jumper Before Deploying The Parachute 

When jumping from 63 miles (100km) the space diver would reach a terminal velocity (speed) of 6,560ft/s (4,470 mph, 7,200 km/h) which is more than 4 times higher than the current record of Felix Baumgartner (843 mph, 1,357 km/h).

In order to decelerate this speed and to account for the increased weight of the equipment that the jumper is likely to carry around with him, the current parachutes would require much higher strength. You would need to design a system that slows the space diver down at a slower rate so that he does not receive any injuries from the parachute deployment.

In my opinion, decelerating speed is the issue that we are most likely to overcome soon. However, no one has not seen the need to do it (as the other obstacles need to be overcome first). 

Who Is Currently Working On This Project 

As of now, no credible organization has announced to work on a jump from 63 miles (100km) above the earth. However, there are a few players that are likely to push technological advancement forward that can ultimately result in space diving. 

Governmental Space Programs Will Push Our Technological Frontier

NASA and the CNSA (China National Space Administration) are both constantly exploring space and are developing new technologies for space travel.

If the political tension between the US and China will continue it can ultimately result in a technological race similar to the race between Russia and the USA during the Cold War. While this might be unpleasant from a political perspective, it can result in major breakthroughs that help to realize the dream of space diving.

Private Spacecraft Companies Work On Space Travel Safety

Private companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or XCOR Aerospace are constantly working on bringing space travel to the mainstream. They not only develop new and better rockets that have better engines but also work on more secure systems and emergency procedures.

Specifically, the emergency procedure for astronauts might result in the technological breakthrough that we need in order to jump from space to Earth. 

Marketing Stunts Will Gather Scientific Data For Space Diving

Red Bull has set multiple world records with its Stratos project in 2012 where Felix Baumgartner jumped from 24 miles (39 km) and was the first human to break the sound barrier.

This jump was not only insane from a marketing perspective but also delivered extremely valuable scientific data about the effects of extreme speed on the human body, new materials, and new procedures. If Red Bull or any other company was to conduct a similar project, it could help to gather needed scientific data and progress needed for space diving. 

If you’re curious about the physical effects of skydiving on your body, check out my post on “11 Incredible Effects of Skydiving on Your Body”. You’ll learn all about how this thrilling activity can impact your physical and mental health in surprising ways.

Will Spacediving Become As Common As Skydiving 

It is difficult to imagine that space diving will become as common as skydiving in the near future. There are so many questions and technological challenges that still need to be resolved before even extreme athletes can perform such a jump – yet alone hobbyists. It is also likely to cost a fortune once it is possible. On the other hand, technology advances at an exponential speed specifically in the space industry.

100 years ago, it was also unimaginable that people would regularly jump out of airplanes and land safely at the ground.

Even though it is not yet possible to jump from space to Earth, extreme athletes have jumped from extreme heights. If you want to learn more, check out my article about the five most-mind-blowing jumps from extreme heights.

Nonetheless, we probably will have to wait for a few decades before space diving becomes feasible. 

Until then, enjoy your freefall from normal heights!

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Kai Schmidt

Hi, I'm Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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