Real history of the Fisher Space Pen


I've carried a Fisher Space Pen Bullet on and off since I was a kid. ("Write underwater and upside down!") I usually lose them in a matter of weeks, but while I can manage to hold on to one I do appreciate its minimalist design, small size, and great "fiddleability." Of course, the Space Pen is surrounded by some epic marketing and myth. Did NASA really invest millions to develop a perfect pen for astronauts? No, apparently, Fisher had developed the pen technology and later brought it to NASA. Following two years of testing, the space agency bought 400 of the pens at a 40 percent discount. And on October 11, 1968, Apollo 7 astronauts carried Fisher Space Pens, model AG7, into orbit.

"The Fisher Space Pen Boldly Writes Where No Man Has Written Before" (Smithsonian)

Fisher Space Pen AG7 (Amazon)



  1. I have at least two Bullet pens at any time, since I always lose them. They’re very expensive, but also fantastic for pocket use, and they write beautifully.

  2. you guys know that Fisher claims the developer’s deceased father came to him in a dream and told him to use a certain kind of resin to make the pen work as well as it does today right?  At least in terms of strangeness, kind of makes the NASA myth pale in comparison.

  3. Around the time I first started seeing Fisher Space Pens a friend of mine forwarded me a joke, which apparently originated with Lewis Black, that NASA spent millions making a pen that would write in space…while the Russians just used a pencil.

    I replied to him that by selling the pen NASA was probably not only able to recoup its investment but make a profit.

    Well, it’s not surprising that we were both wrong.

    1. There’s a surprising number of myths around this pen.  One thing I didn’t see in the article is that, reportedly, ordinary ballpoints are actually ok in space.  They just won’t work against gravity – a problem easily solved by avoiding upside-down situations.

    2. This myth was gleefully forwarded around by all kinds of conservatives as an example of government waste.

      1. You know what’s another example of government waste? Apollo 1. Imagine if it had been designed to be survivable and fire proof.

      2.  As I point to the same conservatives, a pencil may sound like a simple solution, but consider what happens when the tip breaks off and floats into who knows what during free fall.

  4. I carried the Bullet for a few years and then .. you know how this one ends .. lost it.

    I’m pretty sure when I pulled it out of my pocket, people’s first thought was “is that a vibrator?”

  5. I’ve carried the utilitarian ‘Rite-in-the-Rain’ model for 20 years (well, not the exact same pen – having lost them down wells, into excavations, having them driven over, or just generally achieving vapor pressure and evaporating).

    The special thing is not the pen, but the cartridge and ink, which are pressurized and formulated not to ooze or run, respectively.

  6. Hello, and fyi:
    The Fisher “Stowaway” has been my mainstay for ‘everyday carry’ for over 20 years. It is by far the most compact/size-efficient pen they make – barrel is slightly greater diameter than ink-cartridge – and yet has the same ink capacity of their much larger pens. The $10 Stowaway (you can get it cheaper) was once not refillable  (bummer – hated to toss them when empty, and hacking was too much inconvenient p.i.t.a.), but they have remedied that situation making it refillable, an even greater value. If you need the most reliable ball-point pen in its most compact form, I recommend the Stowaway.

     (disclaimer – I am not affiliated with FSP Co. in any way, except… I really like using that pen!) 

    “Go ahead….take the pen!…take the pen!!”

    1. I’ve come across ‘back packer’ pens that fall into the $15 range that offer the same ability to write under any conditions the Fisher pen claims. Guess making the stowaway refillable makes that pen their answer to those ‘back packer’ pens.

  7. Recently when moving, I found an old Space Pen that I hadn’t used in at least 20 years. I was pleasantly surprised that when I tested it, it still wrote like it was brand new.

  8. There is a direct correlation between the coolness of a writing instrument and the speed at which you will lose it (or have it stolen).  

    Same is true of lighters.

  9. Has anyone tried these with a fine-point cartridge? I got gifted with one of these some years back, but unfortunately it came with a medium-point cartridge.

    I hate to be negative about a pen, but other than the novelty of its being a “space pen,” it didn’t…how can I put this…make me want to write with it, the way some other pens do.

    1. If you do a lot of writing ‘on the go’ they are handy.   You can write on a vertical surface and it still works.  If you don’t have a use for that, you won’t see the value.

  10. I was gifted one when I was pretty young, probably 7 or 8 years old – with my initials engraved on it. I loved it, and it surely is what started me on a love of fine/cool writing instruments. But the thing is, unlike everyone else in the comments, I still have that pen – in its original display/gift box. I realized even then that this was something I would not want to lose, and so I barely used it (if ever, other than to show off).

    It’s only in the past few years – nearly twenty years later – that I’ve begun to feel comfortable actually using things like nice writing instruments outside of controlled circumstances. I have amassed quite a large collection of awesome pens and such, from all over the world, but they weren’t getting used because I didn’t want to lose them – and I blame it on the space pen.

    Fittingly, it was a new space pen I bought that signaled a change. Funnily enough, it was an even smaller, easy-to-lose version – the “Stowaway” model. I taped it to a tiny (2×3 inches or so) Moleskine notebook and kept it in my pocket in Thailand for several months to keep written down Thai phrases and to take notes. I still have that one too.

    The lesson for me was that apparently I do not actually easily lose things like pens, so I shouldn’t worry about it and just enjoy the pens I buy. Your mileage may vary. 

  11. Am I the only one who finds that the Space Pen cartridges write fine for the first several weeks, and then start leaving gloopy splotches of ink as they write, and ultimately have a craptacular ink bleed-out while they’re just sitting in your pocket?

    I’ve had a half-dozen of these (slow learner), and they all failed in this same way.

    1. Never had that problem.  

      I did drop my pen on its point once in such a way as to nick the collar around the ball.  This did cause what you describe as the nick was just big enough to allow the ink under pressure to slowly leak out.  I bought a new refill and had no more problems.

    2. Once in awhile a ball of ink would form on my pen. When that happened I just cleaned off the nib. The trick is to stop writing when it forms or you will have a smeary mess.

  12. My one & great Fisher Space Pen story was when I had to fill out a rebate form from a piece of software. Nothing would write on the plastic coated paper form that was about the size of a dollar coin and had been attached to the box. Copies of the form would not be accepted (tricky S.O.B.s). But my Space pen did write on it just fine & I got my $40 check in 6 weeks. The pen more than paid for itself that day.

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