I like simplicity in life which is why I like the moral of this urban myth:

When NASA first ”¨started sending astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens wouldn”™t work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on any surface and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300°C.

The Russians used a pencil.

5 replies
  1. Ivan
    Ivan says:

    This story perfectly illustrates the perils of government waste; pity it’s not quite true. NASA didn’t have $12 billion to spend on anything when it first started sending astronauts into space in the early 1960s. The agency’s entire budget for the 1960 was $500 million; by 1965, it was up to $5.2 billion, still not enough to throw away $12 billion reinventing the ballpoint pen.

    Be that as it may, beginning with the Apollo program astronauts did begin using a specially-designed zero-gravity pen called the Fisher Space Pen. The nitrogen-pressurized space pen worked in “freezing cold, desert heat, underwater and upside down,” as well as in the weightless conditions of outer space.

    It was developed not by NASA, however, but by one enterprising individual, Paul C. Fisher, owner of the Fisher Space Pen Company. By his own account, Fisher spent “thousands of hours and millions of dollars” of his own money in research and development ”” not billions.

    The Fisher Space Pen is still used by both American and Russian astronauts on every space flight, and you can even buy one yourself direct from the company for a measly 50 bucks.

    • Richard Cleaver
      Richard Cleaver says:

      I should have made it clear in the post that the tale was an urban myth and I have updated it accordingly. Thank you for the additional insight. Innovation and passion still make a difference.

      • Ivan
        Ivan says:

        This was used as an example when I was going through school for mech. engineering.. and yes although it is an urban myth, it does provide a valuable lesson!


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