NASA, knowing that astronauts would need to write in space, spent millions of dollars inventing a pen that would write in zero gravity. And invent it they did.
Russia – well, they used a pencil.
I have not verified this story because I am not even sure how I could. I know NASA does not have a blog marked “Oops” or a top ten list of things they learned not to do while spending tax payer money. It ain’t gonna happen.
But, I also have not even tried to verify it because I want it to be true. It is a great story of lessons learned – and forget Aesop’s fables – we can learn so many lessons right in the here and now – and all without even trying to convince ourselves that a fox would actually want grapes in the first place – with all due respect Mr. Aesop – that one was a stretch.
I can even imagine the planning sessions where the scientists were all taking notes in pencil and writing on the chalk board. I am quite sure someone even suggested that the answer must be right there in front of them. It can’t be that hard. Really, I can hear them saying it. Scratching their head with the end of the pencils. Sharpening them while thinking of new ideas. Erasing the ideas that did not work so well. They might have even said – well, that didn’t work, back to the drawing board. I wonder if they drew and colored space ships with their kids at the end of the day – with crayons. Hmmmmm. Maybe little Johnny is on to something.
And I do not see this at all as a criticism of Americans – I think it highlights our strengths. We are a smart, determined, well-resourced group that can solve just about anything. But I think sometimes we need to remember we don’t have to invent a new pen when a pencil will do.
Note: It turns out that regular pencils proved to be dangerous in space because they could catch on fire (details) and that the space pens (after the initial investment of a lot of money to invent them) were actually cheaper to purchase than the mechanical pencils NASA was using instead of regular pencils. Whatever – that is not the point. (get it – not the point?? I crack myself up – really – that was a good one.)