20 Things You Didn't Know About NASA

20. The Pen Story Isn't True

One of the favoured pieces of trivia for the know-it-all at a party, or the local pub bore, is the apocryphal story that NASA spent some unspecified - but large - sum of money to develop a pen that would work in the zero gravity environment of space, where presumably your average biro would have had trouble spilling its ink. The kicker to this story isn't just that the American space agency wasted so much time, money and resources on such a seemingly silly project, but that the much smarter Russian cosmonauts were simply content on using a humble pencil during their missions. Well we're here to tell you, dear readers, that that's a complete load of nonsense and if somebody ever tells you this "fact" you should bring some knowledge crashing down on those suckers. So, two things: first of all, obviously NASA never spent millions just to make a pen astronauts could use to write postcards about how nice the sights were, despite the local cuisine being a little lacking. That would be silly. These guys made rockets that flew to the frickin' moon (and we dare you to tell Buzz Aldrin otherwise) - they're not stupid. What is stupid is the suggestion that pencils are better to use in zero gravity, since there's a good chance that dust from a the "lead" - probably graphite - of a pencil, in the recycled vacuum of a space shuttle, will either end up in the air filtration system and break everything, or else be breathed in by astronauts. Which wouldn't be fun. So yeah, every part of that amazing fact is total BS. Take that, pub bores!
First Posted On: 

Tom Baker is the Comics Editor at WhatCulture! He's heard all the Doctor Who jokes, but not many about Randall and Hopkirk. He also blogs at http://communibearsilostate.wordpress.com/