A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Paul Dolkas
Date: 2014 Dec 15, 19:38 -0800
The space pen story keeps coming up every few years, and the person telling it is usually wrong. So it is in this case.
Here’s the actual story:
Back in the early days of the Mercury program, NASA wanted to give the astronauts some type of pencil or pen so they could make notes or (more importantly) copy down changes to the flight plan. Ordinary pens obviously don’t work in space, so the only solution was a pencil. So the early Gemini astronauts were supplied with automatic pencils. Problem is, the graphite lead might break of and float about, eventually getting behind an instrument panel and short something out. So they weren’t really happy with pencils.
Enter Mr. Fisher. He decided on his own to develop a space pen - using his company’s own money. He figured that if NASA chose the pen, it would be a big seller and he could recoup the investment. So he spent several years developing one (the main problem was coming up with the correct formulation for the ink, since it had to pass strict NASA specs for flammability, offgassing etc.) He delivered the prototypes in 1965, and it took NASA 2 years to test it out. They eventually decided they wanted them, and in 1967, purchased several hundred for the Apollo program. The rest is history.
The Russians, by the way, used grease pencils on a plastic slate.
That space candy (in a tooth paste like plastic tube) I do remember also as I nagged my parents to buy it for me. It was Cherry flavored.
There's always some sort of "space race" going on. It's great business for those making the products.