According to foreign media reports, the space pen captured the imagination of Americans in many ways. It has appeared in popular culture many times, and even as a plot device in “The True Story of Sein Fei”, called “The Feather”, and was inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2021. It is also The subject of a popular saying that NASA spent millions of dollars to invent a pen that can write in zero gravity, and the astronaut only used a pencil.Let’s understand the facts about space pens, pencils in space, and how NASA astronauts write on the space station.
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Is the space pen a real thing?
If it is. The Fisher Space Pen was launched in October 1968TVIn his debut, Apollo 7 mission commander Walter Schirra demonstrated the state of weightlessness by blowing air to control the movement of the space pen floating in the space capsule. This is one of the first live video broadcasts made by an American spacecraft. Since then, the space pen has appeared on television shows, from “Mad Men” and “Gilmore Girls” to “How It’s Made” and so on. These pens are on display in the permanent collections of the Space Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 2021, this technology was recognized by the Space Foundation as an innovation for space development, and now it has improved life on Earth, adding around 80 more technologies to the organization’s hall of fame.
Why not use the pencil directly?
NASA wanted an alternative to the pencil because the tip of the pencil could easily break off and float, posing a danger to astronauts and sensitive electronic equipment on the spacecraft. Since 1969, astronauts have also been using space pens.
Did this cost millions of dollars?
Paul Fisher of the Fisher Pen Company is already working on a pressure pen. That is, without NASA testing, it may never reach the height it did, either in orbit or in an epidemic.
“The original pen was terrible,” said Paul’s son, Cary Fisher, who is the current president of the company. He noted that early pens tended to drip, cut and dry out.
To solve this problem, his father invented the first universal ink cartridge refill and is working on an ink cartridge sealed with nitrogen pressurized on top to push a tiny piston to resist the ink. But this pressure caused the pen to leak.
When NASA approached him to find a pen that didn’t require gravity, he knew that this pressurized ink cartridge could be such a thing, if it could solve the problem of water leaks. Spurred on by NASA interest, he finally succeeded: he added resin to the ink to make it “thixotropic”, almost solid, until it rubbed against the ball of the tip and liquefied. He named this result AG7, which stands for antigravity, and sent some to NASA.
NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center, now Johnson Space Center in Houston, conducted extensive testing of these pens. The space agency found that these pens work in all positions, in extremely hot and cold conditions, and in atmospheres ranging from pure oxygen to vacuum. And they contain enough ink to draw a continuous line over three miles long, far exceeding NASA’s half-kilometer (0.3 mile) ink requirement.
This test accelerated the development of the pen, turning it from a prototype into a safe and reliable product. Once he was flying in space, Paul decided to use the naming space pen. “I thought it was a terrible name,” recalls her son. “I said it sounds like a toy. But my father is right because he does it often.”
These pens are known to some extent for their reliability, but they also began to symbolize America’s originality: When NASA focused on the safe landing of American astronauts on the moon, an inventor and small business owner came forward. and solved the pen. trouble.
Paul and his son continue to perfect technology and design new models.
Do astronauts still use them?
Since the Apollo 7 mission, this pen has been used on all NASA manned missions; there are currently dozens of pens on the International Space Station.
The Space Pen series now includes approximately 80 models. Cary said that while they are popular gifts, members of the military and law enforcement agencies, as well as outdoor enthusiasts, aircraft manufacturers and oil workers are in particularly high demand for them. They are like astronauts and are appreciated in any condition. Writing ability.
Fisher Pen Company has distributors in 52 countries, but still produces all pens in Boulder, where more than 60 employees produce more than a million pens each year.
NASA has a long history of transferring technology to the private sector. The agency’s Spinoff publication features NASA technology, which has been transformed into commercial products and services, demonstrating the broad benefits of America’s investment in its space program. Spinoff is a publication of the NASA Space Technology Mission Agency Technology Transfer Project.
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