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NASA Spent $12
Million For a Space Pen While the Russians Just Use Pencils-Fiction!
Summary of the eRumor The message says that the
U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration spent ten years
and $12 million developing a pen that writes in zero gravity for use
by astronauts. The pen will write upside down, underwater, on
almost any surface and is functional at extremely hot and cold
temperatures. The Russians, however, filled the need for a
space writing instrument by simply using pencils.
For some people, it's sport to point
out government waste and bureaucratic stupidity, but this story
about the space pen won't provide ammunition for it. The
government did not fund the development of the pen, it did not cost
$12 million to perfect, and neither the Americans nor the Russians
consider it desirable to use pencils in space. In fact, both
Americans and Russians use the space pen for their flights.
The famous space pen, which is still a popular product today, was
developed by Paul Fisher the founder of the Fisher pen
company. An engineer who improved ball point technology, he
created his "bullet pen" in the 1940's, which became one
of the best-selling pens of the Twentieth Century. Later, he
perfected a pen that was sealed with pressure inside of the
cartridge that made the ink to flow regardless of gravity. It
also worked in high and low temperature extremes, underwater, and
wrote on many kinds of surfaces. According to the Fisher Pen
company, after extensive testing, NASA chose the pen in 1967 for use
by Apollo astronauts and it's been a part of space travel ever
since. The company says it took Fisher about 2 years and $2
million to develop the space pen. Prior to 1967, there were no
pens that worked in space so there were pencils used, but there were
concerns about pencil dust floating around the space capsules as
well as fears that if the tip of a pencil broke off and drifted into
the electronics, there would be problems.
A real example of the eRumor as it has
appeared on the Internet:
When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they discovered that
ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem,
NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 million developing a pen that
writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface
including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over
When confronted with the same problem, the Russians used a pencil.
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