Among the hundreds of exhibitors at the Travel Goods Association’s trade show in Las Vegas was a booth featuring the nonpareil of travel accessories for the ultimate trip – to the moon. Fisher Space Pen Company has worked with NASA since Apollo 7’s flight in 1968 to provide a pen that would work in the weightlessness of space, replacing earth-bound pencils. Fisher Space Pens have flown on every American manned space mission since. The pen has also been carried up Mount Everest, orbited on Russia’s Mir Space Station and Soyuz missions, and was the subject of a Seinfeld episode. Going beneath the Earth’s surface, the company introduced the Stowaway pen line in 1985, made using historic gold from treasure found on a sunken 1622 Spanish Galleon.
How it works, and works so well, is described with science-speak words like thixotropic and viscoelastic inks, hermetically sealed, shearing action, sliding float, and pressurized nitrogen gas. The end result is an ink that will not dry out for over a hundred years, has the ability to work in temperatures from -30o F to over 250o F, write underwater as well as on most other surfaces, and upside down. Disbelievers are often seen testing it on ceramic coffee mugs, glossy photographs, and aluminum luggage tags, always noting success.
Company literature tells the story of how a Fisher Space Pen helped to save the Apollo 11 Mission – the one that successfully transported Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon and back. As the story goes, the astronauts were climbing back into the Lunar Module when one of their bulky backpacks brushed against a switch and broke it. The switch was pivotal in activating the LM’s engines for leaving the moon. Problem-solvers at Mission Control advised Aldrin to retract the point of his Space Pen and use the hollow end to attach to a tiny metal strip inside the switch. Using this Rube Goldberg solution, Aldrin was able to flick the switch, allowing a successful sequence of events leading to safely lifting off the lunar surface. An account of this is described by Neil Armstrong here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gshmWJlFQHg. John Leish, a NASA public relations official quarantined with the two astronauts upon their return, was in a position to retell this story, and reported to the company, “If it hadn’t been for Fisher Space Pens, Armstrong and Aldrin might still be up there on the Moon.”
Mr. Paul Fisher, inventor and patent holder for the made-in-USA Space Pen, passed away in 2006.