Space Pens in Space
30 Years Ago ...

The Story Behind the Fisher Space Pen

The Fisher Space Pen with its sealed pressurized ink cartridge was selected by NASA (after rigorous testing) for use on all manned space flights because it is the only type of pen that will write satisfactorily in freezing cold (-50 degrees F) and extreme heat (+400 degrees F) and in the gravity-free vacuum of Space. Since 1967, Fisher Space Pens have been used by the Astronauts on all manned space flights -- even those to the Moon. They are also used by the Russian Cosmonauts on the Soyuz space flights and on the MIR Space Station.

The ink in the Space Pen's replaceable refill is positively fed to its tungsten carbide ball by air pressure at about 40 pounds per square inch. The Fisher Space Pen will write at any angle, even upside down. We believe it to be the smoothest writing, most dependable pen in the world.

The pressurized cartridge required the development of a new special viscoelastic ink (like thick rubber cement). Because the ink is thick and rubber-like, it does not flow except when the shearing action of the rolling ball liquefies its solid gel thixotropic ink, allowing it to write smoothly and dependably on most surfaces, even under water. In the 1960's, Paul Fisher (at no cost to the U.S. Government) invested over $2 million and years of research in developing his patented Space Pens.

Ordinary ball pens rely on gravity to feed the ink and have an opening in the top of the ink cartridge to allow air to replace the ink as it is used. There is no hole in the hermetically sealed and pressurized Space Pens. Evaporation, wasted ink, and back leakage are eliminated. Shelf-life is increased from a normal 2 years to an estimated 100 years.

Your Fisher Space Pen is unconditionally guaranteed to give you good, satisfactory service both here on Earth and in Space.

How the Space Pen "Came to Be":

Here's a little history about the Fisher Space Pen Company.
In the 1950's there were dozens of ballpoint models, and nearly every one took a different cartridge. In 1953 Paul Fisher invented the "Universal Refill" which could be used in most pens. It was a good seller, since stationery store owners could reduce their stock of assorted refills.
Not content, Paul continued to work on making a better refill. After much experimentation he perfected a refill using thixotropic ink-semisolid until the shearing action of the rolling ball liquefied it-that would flow only when needed. The cartridge was pressurized with nitrogen so that it didn't rely on gravity to make it work. It was dependable in freezing cold and desert heat. It could also write underwater and upside down. The trick was to have the ink flow when you wanted it to, and not to flow the rest of the time, a problem Fisher solved. Fisher's development couldn't have come at a more opportune time. The space race was on, and the astronauts involved in the Mercury and Gemini missions had been using pencils to take notes in space since standard ball points did not work in zero gravity. The Fisher cartridge did work in the weightlessness of outer space and the astronauts, beginning with the October, 1968 Apollo 7 mission began using the Fisher AG-7 Space Pen and cartridge developed in 1966.

1965 - Patent # 3,285,228: Anti-Gravity Pen The original AG7 Anti-Gravity pen was developed by Paul Fisher

1968 - Fisher Space pens used on Apollo 7 after two years of testing by NASA

1976 - The Fisher Space Pen Co moves into its 30,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Boulder City, Nevada from Van Nuys, California.

1980 - Paul Fisher was selected Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Nevada

1983 - Fisher Space Pen is used by Ronald Reagan to sign the Proclamation inaugurating the Air and Space Bicentennial Year to celebrate Man's first flight in a hot air balloon near Paris France

1985 - Fisher Space Pen Co. produces the Stowaway pen line manufactured using genuine gold from the treasure recovered from the 1622 Spanish Galleon - Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Pictured is Mel Fisher standing with Paul. Mel Fisher's company discovered this treasure after years of search.

1995-96 - Fisher Space Pen Co. received the Nevada Governor's Industrial Appreciation Award as Exporter of the Year

1996 - Good Morning America names the Fisher Space Pen a best stocking stuffer
1996 - Fisher licensed to produce 150th Anniversary Pens for the Smithsonian

1997 - Used during Everest North Face Ski Expedition
- Associated Press released a national article on the Fisher Space Pen Co.

1998 - The Fisher Space Pen is used on the Russian Space Station Mir to write the letters QVV (QVC Shopping Network) - the first product sold in space
- Seinfeld builds an episode around the Fisher Space Pen - Seinfeld is berated by his parents for accepting the pen as a gift from a neighbor who offers it as a token of friendship.

2006 - Sadly, Paul Fisher passed away at the age of 93. The company continues under the leadership of his son, Cary Fisher and almost 100 seasoned employees, many who have been with the company for many decades.

Copyright © 1999 - 2012 Fisher Space Pen Co. All rights reserved.

How a Fisher Space Pen Helped Armstrong and Aldrin Return from the Moon

It's a story that for many weeks was not circulated outside the inner circles of the U.S. Space Program: the Fisher Space Pen helped the original Moon-landing astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, get back to Earth.

A spokesman for NASA recounted the story to Paul C. Fisher, whose company manufactured the pen.

When about to leave the moon, and the astronauts were climbing back into the Lunar Module, the life support backpack on one of the astronauts brushed against the plastic arming switch and broke it. The switch was to have activated the LM's engines for the module's rendezvous with the mother spacecraft.

Aldrin informed Houston's Space Center by radio. A Scientist went to work on the problem immediately by breaking the plastic switch on a duplicate module and then studying the possibility of reaching a tiny metal strip inside the switch.

The AG7E is the exact
model that Aldrin used to
activate the inner switch
which lighted the engines.
AG7 = Anti-Gravity
Apollo 7 maiden voyage.

The strip had to be flipped over to one side to activate the LM engine, but Ground Control knew the astronauts had dispensed with practically all tools in the interest of less weight. But the astronauts still had their Space Pens, so they were advised to retract the point and use the hollow end of the pen to activate the inside switch. Then, Aldrin used his Space Pen to flick the switch's inner workings. He and Armstrong were lifted from the moon to the Apollo Space Ship for return to earth.

The story came out after John McLeish, a NASA public relations official, was quarantined with Armstrong and Aldrin upon the Astronauts' return from their space trip. McLeish told Fisher of the emergency on the moon, related to him by the astronauts. "If it hadn't been for Fisher Space Pens, the astronauts, Armstrong and Aldrin, might still be up there on the Moon."

The early astronauts used pencils for note taking because there were no Space Pens and no other pens would work in space. With the astronauts in mind, Fisher developed what he called his "Space Pen," a pen that would write under weightless conditions and in the vacuum of space.

... And Today

MIR Cosmonauts Use Fisher Space Pens For Their Writing Needs

Actual AG7E Space Pen Floating in it's original gift box 

Russian MIR Commander Anatoly Solovyev

Jun 7-17, 1988: Soyuz TM-5/MIR Space Station
Feb 11 - Aug 9, 1990: Soyuz TM-9/MIR Space Station
Jul 27, 1992 - Feb 1, 1993: Soyuz TM-15/MIR Space Station
Jun 27 - Sep 11, 1995: Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-71/MIR landing in Soyuz TM-21 Capsule
Aug 5, 1997 - Feb 19, 1998: Soyuz TM-26/MIR; Visiting Shuttles: STS-86 Atlantis, STS-89 Endeavour

Commander Anatoly Solovyev has logged 652 days in space, which is the second longest of any US or Russian astronaut. Commander Solovyev holds the current world record for EVA's (ExtraVehicular Activities, commonly known as space walks) at 16.

MIR cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradow (L) and Commander Anatoly Solovyev (R) are shown floating their Fisher Space Pen Model #AG7E aboard Soyuz TM-26 (Aug 5, 1997 - Feb 19, 1998), which rendezvoused with Shuttle Mission Atlantis STS-86 and STS-89 Endeavour. The Anti-Gravity capable Fisher Space Pen made its maiden voyage in October 1968 aboardApollo VII commanded by Wally Schirra and has been used on all manned US space flights since that time. The AG7E Space Pen is the very same model that saved the Apollo XI mission when the Engine Arming Switch was broken and the only tool available was their Space Pen (see story above).

Copyright © 2001 Jim Jobin - The Writer's Edge

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