How different is a space pen from other pens?
Why can’t astronauts use a pencil in space instead of space pen?
According to an urban legend, NASA tasked a team of engineers in the 1960s with inventing a pen that would write in zero gravity. At a cost of several million dollars and after years of research and development, the engineers solved the problem. They invented the zero-gravity pen. At the same time, the Soviet space program was faced with the same problem of writing in space. They solved it by using pencils. read more
On the outside, I can't tell any difference, other than one will write upside down (which comes in handy when jotting down notes in the middle of the night) and the other will not. The space pen I use is about the same size as the normal pens I use, and the refills look the same. Obviously inside there are major differences.
As far as pencils go, they work fine but you have to press harder, and they aren't permanent. They also don't give as clear and consistent lines as pens do.
I like my space pen-- it always works.
As far as the astronauts using a pencil-- I think the main problem would be breaking off a piece of lead, and all of the little shavings from sharpening. Little bits and pieces of lead and wood could float around and be inhaled or get into sensitive instruments and components.
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