THREAT AND CHALLENGE
Although the United States initiated the space race when the Eisenhower White House declared its intent to launch an Earth orbiting satellite on July 29, 1955, it was the Soviet Union that scored a series of dramatic firsts. On October 4, 1957, the 183 pound Sputnik became the first Earth orbiting satellite and on November 3, 1957, a live dog named Laika, aboard the 1120 pound Sputnik 2, became the first living creature to orbit Earth. The United States finally entered the race on March 17, 1958, when the 31 pound, 6.5 inch diameter Vanguard 1 reached orbit carrying a small scientific payload.
On May 15, 1958, the Soviet Union put Sputnik 3 into orbit. Sputnik 3 weighed an amazing 2926 pounds and carried an impressive geophysical laboratory that studied Earth's ionosphere, magnetic field, cosmic rays and the Van Allen Belt, which were newly discovered radiation belts surrounding Earth. These belts were detected for the first time by Vanguard 1.
The cold war was in full bloom and the American public was spooked by the Soviet's obvious superiority in space and what it could mean to peace and security if America didn't answer the challenge.
The United States Congress responded on July 16, 1958, when it passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958.
On October 7, 1958, seven days after formally coming into existence, NASA officially approved Project Mercury, "to send a man into orbit, investigate his capabilities and reactions in space and return him safely to earth."
On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union stunned the world once again when they put the first man, Yuri Gagarin, in orbit. This unprecedented feat overshadowed the achievement of the Mercury program's flight of FREEDOM 7, which 23 days later, on May 5, 1961, put American Astronaut, Alan B. Shepard, JR., into space in a suborbital flight.
President Kennedy, an insightful leader, realized that American science and the American public needed a dramatic, publicly announced goal to rally around if we were going to pick up the pace and dedicate enough resources to respond to this threat of domination of space.
In a speech before a joint session of Congress on, May 25, 1961, John F. Kennedy did just that when he declared, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth." The Space Race now had an incredibly audacious goal and a timetable which would require ingenuity and luck to achieve.
MERCURY AND GEMINI
The Mercury program laid the foundation for extended space flight required to accomplish the challenge NASA was charged with answering. The Mercury program put 5 more men into space, 3 into orbit the first being FRIENDSHIP 7, which on, February 20, 1962, orbited John H. Glenn, Jr. three times around earth. Two more manned orbital flights concluded its mission to prove that man could survive in space and proved that NASA could put a piloted spacecraft into Earth orbit and retrieve the astronauts safely.
Project Gemini (flights during 1965 - 1966) built on Mercury's achievements and extended NASA's human spaceflight program to a spacecraft built for two astronauts. Its mission was to test out technologies and practice space operations, especially the rendezvous and docking of spacecraft and extravehicular activity (spacewalks). Project Gemini's 10 flights also provided NASA scientists and engineers with more data on weightlessness, re-entry and splashdown procedures. The program provided moments of high drama and achievement. One such moment occurred during Gemini 4, when on June 3, 1965, Edward H. White, Jr. became the first U.S. astronaut to leave the relative safety of the space capsule and conduct an extravehicular spacewalk.
The final phase in NASA's quest to land on, and then return safely from, the moon was the eleven year Apollo program. This effort required significant expenditures, costing $25.4 billion over the life of the program. Only the building of the Panama Canal rivaled the size of the Apollo program as the largest nonmilitary, technological endeavor ever undertaken by the United States; just the Manhattan Project was comparable in a wartime setting. Although there were major challenges and some failures - notably a January 27, 1967 fire in an Apollo capsule on the ground that took the lives of astronauts Roger B. Chaffee, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, and Edward H. White Jr. - the program moved forward.
Less than two years later, after that tragic fire and substantial changes, NASA tested the redesigned Apollo command module in October 1968. Apollo 7 was safely picked out of the ocean after orbiting earth. With Kennedy's deadline looming barely one year away, NASA pulled off the amazing feat of launching the Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the Moon on December 24-25, 1968, just 43 days later.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Neil A. Armstrong uttered these famous words on July 20, 1969, when the Apollo 11 mission fulfilled the first half of Kennedy's challenge by successfully landing Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. on the Moon. Armstrong dramatically piloted the lunar module to lunar surface with less than 30 seconds worth of fuel remaining. After taking soil samples, photographs, and doing other tasks on the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin rendezvoused with their colleague Michael Collins in lunar orbit. When the space craft, Columbia, executed a safe splashdown with three healthy and very happy astronauts on board, the "Kennedy challenge" was fulfilled eight years and 60 days after it was issued.
NASA FACES A DILEMMA
A lot of science and many technologies not yet available would be required to fulfill the goal Kennedy proposed on May 25, 1961. It would take the best minds in America and around the globe to develop and put them into practice in the most unforgiving frontier ever explored by mankind. One of the technologies required was a reliable writing instrument which could withstand the environment of space. An old standby, the pencil, posed a hazard to electronics and the astronauts themselves if a broken piece were to float about the spacecraft. Graphite dust would pose similar problems. All other writing instruments, available at the time, had ink systems which required them to be vented to the atmosphere. If exposed to the perfect vacuum of space, even for an instant, the solvents in these inks would vaporize rendering the pen useless for the rest of the journey as well as exposing the spacecraft and its occupants to fumes, dyes and other materials of questionable safety.
It wasn't until 1967 that NASA found Paul Fisher and his "Anti Gravity" pen. It wasn't for lack of trying on Paul's part. Letters had been sent and the pen had even been recognized in the "Congressional Record". NASA found its own way to Fisher through a pen wholesaler, Ed Melugin, who owned Dallas Pen. They'd already been to all the big name companies with the national advertising budgets without success. When they called Ed, he said, "Paul Fisher does more research than anybody else. If anyone can help you, he can."
IN TIME FOR THE ASTRONAUTS
After 18 months of successful testing, NASA selected Fisher's "Anti Gravity" pen for space flight. Paul Fisher, a romantic at heart and a huge fan of the space program, wanted to donate the pens to NASA. However, that was not allowed, so NASA issued a purchase order and paid the dealer price for its first batch of pens which included a specially developed all metal mechanism. Shortly thereafter, Astronauts Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and Walter Cunningham were using the pens in earth orbit aboard Apollo 7, the first manned flight in the Apollo program. The Fisher Space Pen is one of the many items used by the space program for which the technology didn't exist when President Kennedy challenged America to put a man on the moon and bring him safely to earth before the end of the decade.
THE MARCH TO QUALITY
In 1946, Paul C. Fisher, became a parts supplier to Reynolds Pen Company, the first ball point pen manufacturer in the United States. The early pens, in Paul's own words, "were a disaster." They oozed out the point, leaked out the back, dried out while still in the pen and when actually written with, the ink took so long to dry that a signature could be easily transferred a week later.
Fisher became a believer of the ball pen concept in 1949, when glycol based inks were introduced by Papermate. He quickly became obsessed with making the best performing pens available. Though a small manufacturer, he started making his own inks and developed his own 'state of the art' point making machines. Eventually Fisher found a cure for the oozing that plagued ball pens by adding a small amount of synthetic rubber to his inks. Combined with his precision points, this ink breakthrough resulted in Fishers's quality and performance becoming the envy of the ball pen industry.
THE SPACE PEN STORY
Paul Fisher still wasn't satisfied. His new ink and point design mitigated the back leaking problem but didn't eliminate it. His ink, like his competitors, still wouldn't flow in cold temperatures and tended to be messy in warmer temperatures. Because the ink would still dry out, the pens had to be sold well before the 2 to 3 year shelf life expired. Finally, after thousands of experiments and years of frustration, he and his research team perfected a sealed pressurized ink cartridge utilizing a semisolid thixotropic ink that remained in the cartridge until the shearing action of the rolling ball liquefied it, allowing it to flow only when needed. It wrote well, and wouldn't leak ink and make a mess on his desk over night. As an added bonus, the pressurization enabled Fisher to develop inks that would perform in both higher and colder temperatures.
Systems and machinery still had to be developed to pressurize the cartridge and provide a reliable long term seal. Before the end pf 1965, the Fisher Pen Company offered the first permanently sealed and pressurized pen for sale to the general public.
FISHER SPACE PEN TECHNOLOGY
Fisher Space Pens have unique design characteristics making them far more reliable than conventional ball point pens. The Fisher Space Pen point is produced to ultra-high precision manufacturing tolerances of both the ballpoint and the socket. It contains visco elastic ink, which flows as a result of the shearing action of the rolling ball in its socket. This shearing action liquefies the solid gel thixotropic ink allowing the Fisher Space Pen to write smoothly and dependably when pressurized at nearly 50 pounds per square inch. This pressurization assures that the ink is continuously fed to the tungsten carbide ball, allowing the user to write in a vacuum, at any angle, including upside down, over grease, in hot and cold temperatures and even underwater. With this system, evaporation and back leakage are eliminated. The shelf-life of a Fisher Space Pen refill is increased over gravity fed refills to an estimated 100 years. The Fisher Space Pen and Fisher Space Pen refill writes anywhere, any time. Guaranteed!