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Short story about an astronaut on Jupiter, describing him walking around under heavy atmosphere & gravity, wearing a diving-type space suit. Probably written in the 1950s.

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    Tell us more about the story. So far all you've said is "astronaut on Jupiter"; heavy atmosphere & gravity are automatic, and so is the suit if it's a human astronaut walking around on Jupiter. – user14111 Dec 20 '14 at 8:08
  • The atmosphere on Jupiter is 99% made of hydrogene and helium. It can't be that heavy. Maybe the author didn't know. The gravity is indeed bigger than on earth. Could it be a story from Stanislaw Lem? – ott-- May 29 '16 at 20:31
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Arthur C. Clarke’s story A meeting with Medusa would fit, although it was published in 1971 rather than the 1950s.

As I recall, it deals with the conditions on Jupiter in detail and the equipment needed to survive it. There's kind of a surprise ending (if I recall correctly) where it is revealed that the astronaut is actually a substantially robotic/human cyborg, rather than just wearing a heavy suit.

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May be that the person's memory is hazy. I remember a similar situation in a short story from the same time frame ("Becalmed in Hell") that takes place on Venus. It is very hot and the astronaut is trying to free up the steering fins on the rocket plane so they can leave. He is wearing an extra heavy space suit to protect him from the heat. He needs to carry buckets of ice from inside the ship to dump on the fins. The ice melts so fast that by the time he gets to the fins, it is just slushy water. I believe the crew "found" a being in suspended animation to take back to earth. The being is female, I believe and is in some sort of transparent capsule or sarcophagus. Turns out she has psycho-kinetic powers and tries to kill everyone on board. I believe the protagonist finally jettisons the container she is in. Not sure if she is supposed to be a native of Venus or was marooned there.

  • You may be describing "Becalmed in Hell"; variety-sf.blogspot.co.uk/2007/09/… – Valorum Dec 20 '14 at 17:06
  • I read the synopsis and you are correct. I obviously melded too different stories together. Now I am going to have to post a question about the other one because I can't remember the title or author. – The Omega Man 502 Dec 21 '14 at 11:35
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There's not much to go on here; essentially, it's just "man walks on the surface of Jupiter". No doubt there are quite a few "boots on Jupiter" stories. This one is perhaps more prominent than most, because it was anthologized, and because the author was a prominent writer of science fiction and horror:

"Red Storm on Jupiter", a 1936 short story by Frank Belknap Long, about radium prospectors and lawmen on Jupiter; originally published in Astounding Stories, May 1936, available at the Internet Archive; reprinted in the 1950 anthology Flight into Space edited by Donald A. Wollheim.

Enormous atmosphere transports had carried them to radium-rich veins under the red heavens, and intrepid Earthmen—dredgers and miners—had operated them in ghastly loneliness of spirit in a world where human beings moved with the slowness of exhaustion, incased in protective suits that weighed two hundred pounds, and wearing upon their feet immense shoes that mushroomed on the surface that was neither liquid nor solid, but an amalgam alien to Earth.

Miners and dredgers. Both terms were in a sense misnomers. The sluggish, heavy tides of the Jeel's crust solidified in spots to a consistency that merited the adjective "solid," and it was in such curdled areas that the radium deposits clustered like glowworms about a central matrix whose every pulse was worth a fortune in gold and diamonds.

[. . . .]

He had been dredging continuously for three hours. In a non-conductive belt which encircled his massive oxygen suit the garnering of his day's toil emitted radioactive emanations capable of destroying life on all of the Jovian outposts, actinic rays more deadly than the most lethal salts and corrosive acids. On Earth radium was the rarest of known elements and had to be patiently isolated from uranium residues. But on Jupiter radium existed in a free state in the turgid, semiliquid crust area.

Harnden's nerves shrieked warnings, protested that it was time to quit. The brief, ten-hour Jovian day was drawing to a close amidst such a plethora of brightness that it seemed to be just beginning. Harnden turned slowly about on his huge flattened shoes, and moved toward the little atmosphere transport which floated in the shadow of the Foam Station a few feet from where he was standing.

The turgid substance beneath him was unimaginably queer. The immense surfaces of Harnden's shoes plopped across it, sinking through the spreading scum from the sprayer, but making only slight depressions, which immediately filled, in the basic substance of the Jeel. By ultimate analysis, it was perhaps more solid than liquid. But it was sufficiently liquid to rear into huge waves, cones and pinnacles of seething menace when the sprayer ceased to function.

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Mission of Gravity (1953), by Hal Clement

Mission of Gravity takes place on Mesklin, a planet with a mass 16 times that of Jupiter. Mesklin's rapid rotation of once every 17 minutes 45 seconds gives it the shape of an oblate spheroid; its equatorial diameter is substantially greater than its polar diameter. Mesklin has a solid surface partly covered by liquid methane seas. The planet's rapid rotation and great equatorial radius combine to counteract much of its strong surface gravity, which ranges from 3 g (three times Earth's) at the equator to 665 g at the poles.

In Mission of Gravity, a human astronaut named Charles Lackland has a base on Mesklin's equator. Lackland depends on heated pressure gear for survival and on a powered exoskeleton for mobility; even so, he can barely endure the relatively mild environment of the equator. Lackland must employ a crew of native intelligent beings to travel through high latitudes to one of Mesklin's poles to retrieve important measurements taken by a stranded automated rocket.

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database lists the publication history of Mission of Gravity. Now a novel, it was initially published as a serial in four issues of Astounding Science Fiction (April, May, June, and July 1953),(1) which are available to read online (complete with original artwork) at the Internet Archive. Perhaps you saw Mission of Gravity in this serialized form, or maybe you read it quickly — it is short compared to new novels published in recent decades — and remember it as a short story.

You can borrow Mission of Gravity as an e-book from the Open Library.

The Open Library shows the cover art of several editions of the novel, such as these depicting Mesklin from space and Lackland on the surface:

    Cover of Mission of Gravity, showing the planet Mesklin as an oblate spheroid. Cover of Mission of Gravity, showing Charles Lackland in his protective suit. Cover of Mission of Gravity, showing Charles Lackland resting in his protective suit.


(1) My browser does not display the Internet Archive's scans properly in two-page view. One-page view, although it has glitches as well, is more reliable. If you have trouble viewing these scans on the Internet Archive, try changing the display settings in the bottom-right corner of the window.

  • @user14111 — Thank you. Those links are convenient, and it's great to see the original artwork. – Gaultheria Jul 19 at 9:04
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I read a short story about some astronauts who landed on Jupiter in horrendous wind storms. The astronaut had a dog with him. Previous astronauts were genetically modified to Jovian creatures and let out of the outpost to explore the planet and analyze the atmosphere. But they never returned. The last astronaut transforms himself and his dog and steps outside. But to his surprise the day is like a sunny day on Earth. His dog speaks with him telepathically and they find the planet Jupiter pleasant to be on, so they don't return either.

I think the story name is "Desertion" by Clifford D. Simak.

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    Hi. Are you trying to ask a new question? You posted something as an "answer" but you're not answering the question. Please read the help center; it contains a lot of good advice about how to ask and answer questions. – Spencer Jan 23 at 0:04
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    I think the story name is "Desertion" by Clifford D. Simak. – WIll Jan 23 at 0:58

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