The Million Dollar Space Pen
Status: Urban Legend
Dwayne Day has an interesting article in Space Review
about the urban legend of the Million Dollar Space Pen. I'm sure you've heard the legend before. It's the one in which NASA pays a million dollars to develop a pen that will write in space. The Russians, meanwhile, being a bit more practical and budget-conscious, just use a pencil for their space missions.
The truth is that the space pen was independently developed in the mid-1960s by Paul Fisher of the Fisher Pen Company. He did it completely on his own, without prompting by NASA and without NASA money
. It turned out to be a good pen, and NASA later started to use it. But they paid around $2 a piece for them. Not $1 million. Day notes that:
"The Million Dollar Space Pen Myth is just that, a myth. The pens never cost a lot of money and were not developed by wasteful bureaucrats or overactive NASA engineers. The real story of the Space Pen is less interesting than the myth, but in many ways more inspiring. It is not a story of NASA bureaucrats versus simplistic Russians, but a story of a clever capitalist who built a superior product and conducted some innovative marketing. That story, however, is a little harder to sell to a public that believes what it wants to believe."
I know that you can still buy space pens. I saw them for sale a few months ago at Restoration Hardware.
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