I recieved this in an email from SamTravis regarding my FavoriteQuotes page where I have a bit about the NASA space pen. I'd never verified the truth of this story as it was in my humourous quotes section, but it's always good to know more. The quote goes like this:
"During the heat of the space race in the 1960s, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided it needed a ball point pen to write in the zero gravity confines of its space capsules. After considerable research and development, the Astronaut Pen was developed at a cost of about US $1 million. The pen worked and also enjoyed some modest success as a novelty item back here on earth.
"The Soviet Union, faced with the same problem, used a pencil."
Sam writes ...
I hate to spam you, but on your quotes page you've tripped one of my pet peeves. The Space Pen. There is a common email circulating that describes how much money NASA wasted on making a pen that writes upside down, in vacuum blah blah blah. You know how much it really cost the US Gov't? Nothing. Fisher developed it at TREMENDOUS cost, all of it absorbed by them. In return they got to be the sole provider. Normally this means that they would sell these pens to NASA at some obscene amount. They charged just a few dollars. Admittedly, a few dollars for a pen was a lot in the 60's, but 1/100th what they could have charged. Fischer did this out of True Faith, True Faith that knowledge and research is its' own reward. And since that day, they have sold so many of their pens to the private sector, that they have made their money back a ten times, and still never charged that much. I have one of these pens, you can buy them at any stationary store, even Hallmark stores carry them. I recommend them, they're damn good pens.
Oh, and the bit about the pencil is true, the russians did use pencils. Remember the space station fires that they had? At least one of these, I forget which, but it caused a fatality, at least one was caused by airborn pencil shavings mixing with sensitive electronics. Their solution? Mail order Fischer Space Pens.