The popular myth is that NASA spent millions of dollars on developing a pen that would write in outer space, while the Russian Cosmonauts simply used pencils like the Russian and American spacemen used before the introduction of the Space Pen to Apollo VII in 1968. As is now widely known, this is not true. Paul Fisher produced the Space Pen with millions of his own dollars. Nevertheless, it does speak volumes about Americans that we would invent a special pen for space, rather than using pencils — whether it is an example of our ingenuity, wastefulness, inventiveness, etc.
The joke is that the Soviets used regular pencils and saved their comrades millions, so we have what is one of the funniest dang geek gift items you’re likely to find: The Russian Space Pen.
“Fisher developed his space pen with no NASA funding. The company reportedly invested about $1 [I’ve read that it was $2 million] million of its own funds in the effort then patented its product and cornered the market as a result. Fisher offered the pens to NASA in 1965, but, because of the earlier controversy, the agency was hesitant in its approach. In 1967, after rigorous tests, NASA managers agreed to equip the Apollo astronauts with these pens. Media reports indicate that approximately 400 pens were purchased from Fisher at $6 per unit for Project Apollo. The Soviet Union also purchased 100 of the Fisher pens, and 1,000 ink cartridges, in February 1969, for use on its Soyuz space flights. Previously, its cosmonauts had been using grease pencils to write in orbit.”
Stay tuned next week for the first pseudo-heretical (some would say) and post-hypocritical act of writing about a pen on Pencil Revolution: the Fisher Space Pen.
[Image, JustWrite.com.au. Thanks to Lindsay for the link!]