NASA talks Space Pen myths and how its astronauts write in space

Brittany A. Roston - Aug 27, 2021, 2:58pm CDT
NASA talks Space Pen myths and how its astronauts write in space

NASA published an editorial today discussing its Space Pen, the myths surrounding it, and how the space agency’s astronauts actually write while on the International Space Station. In its new editorial, NASA reveals how the Space Pen actually became a thing, how much it cost taxpayers, and why the space agency made the decision to move away from cheap, but risky, pencils.

You’re likely familiar with the decades-old Space Pen, a type of pressurized pen that can function in the space station’s microgravity environment. There’s a popular myth about the Space Pen that claims NASA spent millions of dollars developing the instrument while Russian cosmonauts simply used pencils.

NASA addresses that myth in its new post, explaining that the Space Pen didn’t cost taxpayers millions of dollars and that there’s a good reason astronauts stopped using pencils. The ISS is full of sensitive equipment and can potentially end up damaged by small bits of debris floating around.

Pencils, of course, need to be sharpened and they’re prone to breaking while writing, which could result in small bits of graphite roaming free in the space station. These small graphite pieces could potentially cause damage to sensitive electronics on the ISS, not to mention that astronauts could potentially inhale the small pieces, causing injury.

NASA points out that the cosmonauts have been using the Space Pen for decades, as well. The product was made by the Fisher Pen Company’s Paul Fisher who was working on the product before NASA entered the picture. The space agency notes that it did play a vital role in testing the technology, however, helping Fisher solve the problem of leaks that were common with pressurized pen prototypes.

The Space Pen has since been used for every crewed NASA space mission since Apollo 7; there are dozens of these pressurized pen models now available, and anyone can purchase them.

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