23 October 2003
I am writing these notes in the Soyuz with a cheap ballpoint pen. Why is that important? As it happens, I've been working in space programmes for seventeen years, eleven of these as an astronaut, and I've always believed, because that is what I've always been told, that normal ballpoint pens don't work in space.
"The ink doesn't fall", they said. "Just try for a moment writing face down with a ballpoint pen and you will see I'm right", they said.
During my first flight I took with me one of those very expensive ballpoint pens with a pressure ink cartridge, the same as the other Shuttle astronauts. But the other day I was with my Soyuz instructor and I saw he was preparing the books for the flight, and he was attaching a ballpoint pen with a string for us to write once we were in orbit. Seeing my astonishment, he told me the Russians have always used ballpoint pens in space.
So I also took one of our ballpoint pens, courtesy of the European Space Agency (just in case Russian ballpoint pens are special), and here I am, it doesn't stop working and it doesn't 'spit' or anything. Sometimes being too cautious keeps you from trying, and therefore things are built more complex than necessary.
Read the rest here: http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/SEM9YN7O0MD_index_0.html
Sort of sad, what it says about humanity. And me. Still, I'm working on it, I guess, bit by bit. :P
Link stolen from lapis_lazuli.