Have you seen the first of the two new Star Trek movies? Kirk (Chris Pine), Sulu (John Cho) and a red shirt perform something really awesome in this film: They jump from space down to a planet, basically only protected by some suit.
My question(s): Is a jump from actual space down to Earth possible? If yes, how? What are the actual problems related to it? Has it ever been researched? If yes, what was the outcome?
Let's assume two scenarios for my question. One jump from the true edge of space at 100 km altitude and another jump from 400 km, the approximate altitude of the ISS. Both jumps happen from fixed positions relative to the Earth's surface (not from an orbit, of cause). Imagine someone doing a base-jump from a gigantic tower.
Intuition tells me that rapid deceleration once deep in the atmosphere would not even be the issue. Trouble should come from heat caused by friction and its 'disposal', although I am not sure about that.
Giving some context to this question, first of all, there was Project Excelsior, in which Joseph Kittinger did similar jumps, among them one from an altitude of 31.33 km, in 1960. Further jumps of this kind happened within projects Red Bull Stratos, during which Felix Baumgartner jumped from a maximum altitude of 38.97 km in 2012. Both projects featured jumps from within Earth's atmosphere by definition, to be more precise from the stratosphere. Although, both parachutists experienced a rather long phase of virtual free fall before they 'hit' the 'atmosphere', as they described it.
A while ago I had to deal with sounding rockets. Straight up to about 100 km in powered flight and immediately straight down again in 'free' fall. Temperature measurements on the outer shell indicated a maximum of about 250°C +/- 50K on re-entry, although the temperatures had already reached about 70°C at apogee because of the high-speed ride upwards. I dug for an example in terms of speed and deceleration on the way down and made a plot, here it is:
It is only from 87 km, but it should do the trick. The object was a cylinder, about 2.5m in length and 0.3m in diameter, weighing something less than 100kg (weight and dimensions are slightly similar to a human body). Yes, it did tumble. You can see the parachute opening at about 6km. The peak-deceleration on the way down was at about 5.5 G, within limits for a human to survive. It includes the one G, which you experience here on Earth's surface. Be careful with the data above 60km - it is GPS data, which sucks at high altitude and high vertical speeds. If someone is interested in, the rockets were Improved Orions.