You may have heard that in the early days of the space race, NASA spent millions of taxpayer money developing a pen to write in space. The Soviets, faced with the same problem, used mechanical pencils.
The Fisher Pen Company set out to create a pen that could write in all conditions: extreme cold and heat, underwater, and, of course, without gravity. It was patented in 1965. NASA purchased the pen for evaluation in 1967, and first flew it on Apollo 7 in 1968. Fisher sold 400 to NASA–at a discount. The Soviet program also bought the pens for use on their space flight (also at a discount). Myth busted.
A maxim among fountain pen
snobs collectors is that a “ballpoint pen is just a fancy holder for a refill.” I don’t believe that to be completely true, as the “fancy holder” does have an influence over writing (how it is gripped, how it is balanced, etc.). However, it is the refill that provides the characteristics that make a Fisher Space Pen a pen for space. The refill is pressurized with nitrogen gas, to force the ink to the tip. The ink is designed to remain a gel until it comes out of the tip (to keep it from being pushed out under the pressure).
While I do not have the true astronaut model, the AG7, there are two other models represented in my collection. The Bullet model was covered before. Its fits into a pant pocket quite readily. When posted, the cap makes it the length and balance of a full size pen. These are quite handy to carry around, though its portability may be its downfall.
One year, for Christmas, my sister gave me a black grid shuttle model. I like having ballpoints that retract, as it makes it easy to pull out for a quick note while standing (rather than having to handled the cap). The action on the mechanism is quite solid–push the button on the top, and the tip extends. The button on the side retracts it solidly.
As a fan of the space program, the fact that these are descendants of pens
design to be carried in to space is a thrill. However, what makes it well suited to write on the International Space Station–that it can write anywhere–is what makes this pen handy to have in one’s pocket.