Author: James Flanagan

From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II this storm has raged unabated. Wars and plagues have scoured the Earth while eras of enlightenment and eras of disgrace have risen and slipped away, and always the mother of all storms has boiled and churned — the Big Red Eye of Jupiter.

Annie Edson Taylor plunged over Niagara Falls, and Felix Baumgartner fell from space. Today is the day that you’ll remember my name: Kienan O’Malley, the first man to storm ride on Jupiter.

From Earth, the spot is an anomaly, a blotch on its perfect face. On final approach before geosynchronous orbit, we gaze into the maw of hell, a rusty rotation, an orbit in orange and red. Today it breathes in the darkest ruby, like the dirt from the land of my birth. I love a sunburnt country, but I adore the rouge of Jove.

For twenty years this has been my dream: Planning, fund-raising, designing, training, simulating every contingency. Then six years in transit. I would be remiss not to mention my sponsors Bluecow Racing who have been with me from the start. Twenty years of training for a single circuit around the eye of the storm, a six day ride. I stand on the precipice of history. There is no sitting on the fence for me.

Mission control, all checks done. The door is open. Let my guardian angels follow me down. Go!

I’m free falling……….Can’t breathe………Rotating…………….Rotation stabilised…..pointing head down now……. Picking up speed…..Seven hundred miles an hour…..12,000 miles above tropopause……………………..8,000……….4,000………passing tropopause….. Officially inside the eye……. Wings getting hot…..Banking….. So heavy…….Can’t breathe……Pressure holding…………..Neutral buoyancy reached……..Nominal. I’m in the jet stream now, winds speed 435 miles per hour.

It’s been eight hours now, navigating towards the inner eye, wind speeds down to eighty miles per hour, and I’m floating along like flotsam on the tide. Relative to the wind speed it is quite calm. I see white clouds surrounding me, occasional specs of ammonium are hitting my visor, but apart from that it is white gas. I see nothing else.

Three days now floating on this tide, like swimming through gaseous milk. Every ten hours the planet rotates and I see the whiteness brighten as we face into the sun, then it darkens quickly as night falls. Yesterday, I think I saw an apple-sized chunk of ammonium crystal, the largest thing I have seen so far. I’m counting discernable crystals. I have nothing else to do.

Five days now, a sensory deprivation chamber churning my mind. The instruments tell me I’m approaching the exit point for rendezvous, but I have no landmarks to confirm. On this blank canvas my eyes have wandered. I’ve imagined colours I might have seen from space, the reflections of expectations. I see shapes, faces, bulbous noses, monstrous eyes, mouths widening to swallow me.

“My God! What’s that….”