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The Space Pen

During the Space Race between America and the USSR in the 1960s, it rapidly became obvious that ordinary pens wouldn't work in space. They need gravity to feed ink to the tip, and don't respond very well to large air pressure or temperature variations. The Americans thought long and hard about this, spent millions on research and development, and eventually came up with the Space Pen. It uses gas from a small internal canister to push the ink to the nib, it can write upside down, in zero gravity, and at a wide range of temperatures and pressures, some of which would kill the user. An impressive piece of technology. The Americans issued space pens to all of their astronauts and patted themselves on the back - a job well done.

The Russians, of course, had the same problem. They too thought long and hard about it, then they too issued all of their cosmonauts with a clever and versatile device that will write reliably in all of the wide range of conditions required. It's called a pencil.


Copyright © Jon Storm 2005