Today is Throwback Thursday… From December 2015
“Houston, We’re Cool – No Problems Here”
I’M WRITING THIS IN LONGHAND, on lined paper, in cursive, using one of those so-called “Space Pens.”
The makers of this pen used to advertise all over the place when the pens first came on the market several decades ago. Now you have to do a Google search to find them. At least I did.
They called them “Space Pens” because; on some early NASA space flights they discovered that your basic, every day ball point pens didn’t work very well. Everything was weightless, including the ink inside the pen, and it wouldn’t flow onto the page. Apparently, in those early days of space travel, the Astronauts took a lot of notes. Or maybe they whiled away the long hours in orbit by connecting the dots or doing crossword puzzles.
Faced with this dilemma the brilliant minds set to work hunting for a solution. They found one.
The “Space Pen” is like other pens, with a reservoir of ink, but it is different in that the ink is in a pressurized capsule so that, no matter at what angle you hold the pen, the ink will flow. It even works in the weightlessness of space. Hence, the super-duper nifty advertising idea to call them – “Space Pens.” I’ll bet that name was coined by a graduate of the Wharton School of Business.
I remember having a Space Pen decades ago. I think I got as a gift from some relative. It must have been a gift; because there was no way I was going to spend the money for one. When they first hit store shelves these pens were going for both an arm and a leg. I honestly don’t recall the actual figure, but it would have meant no lunch for a long time. No lunch? Not this boy!
It was like when the small electronic digital calculators hit the stores. I remember dropping close to a hundred dollars for one. (I was working by then and thought I could afford the calculator AND lunch. I was ultimately wrong.) Now you can find those calculators being used as give-aways to kids, or if you want to actually spend money for one, you can find a nice selection at your local Dollar Store. You can get one there that has the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it if so desired.
Those cheap calculators put the slide rule manufacturers out of business. Those gizmos are museum pieces now. When I was in High School we had a Slide Rule Club – a group even Dorkier than the Audio-Visual Club.
There was never a Space Pen Club. When you get right down to it, the Space Pen is — a pen. It can do whatever one can do with a pen and do it at whatever angular orientation you choose. But it is still — a pen.
The odds that I will ever get the opportunity to test out its efficiency under weightless conditions are pretty slim. NASA doesn’t actively recruit Astronauts my age, unless you are a Senator or something equivalent – like a member of a popular, yet aging, Boy Band.
Why did I get this Space Pen in the first place?
Idle curiosity and access to the Internet. What brought it to mind in the first place is beyond me, but I did a search and, Eureka! – They are still on the market. The prices have dropped by about 99.9999%, so I figured, why not?
I am proud to say that I am the owner of three Genuine, blister-packed, patent and copyright protected. honest to Alan Shepard, “Space Pens.” It was four blister-packed pens, but I had to take one out of the pack so I could use it to write this.
Don’t you feel like you just rubbed eyeballs with history? Just a bit, maybe?
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