If you’ve had internet access for more than five years, or so, you’ll have seen an email about NASA’s “space pen” doing the rounds. According to the author, NASA spent millions developing a pen that could write upside down and in zero gravity. Meanwhile, the story goes, Russian cosmonauts just continued using the good old pencil.
Except, according to some research done by former Apple employee and all round awesome geek, Daniel Kottke, that’s not the story.
He found that the Fisher Pen Company, the manufacturer of the space pen, originally developed the writing implement in 1965 at a cost of $1-million. Moreover, NASA found that pencils were impractical in zero gravity because things like wooden pencil shavings and graphite dust would float around – a big fire risk.
The Fisher Space Pen was the obvious answer, having been designed to withstand extreme temperatures and even remained usable underwater.
NASA bought 400 of Fisher’s pens, after testing, and a year later the Russians also started using them. Now you know.