space pen

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pages: 476 words: 118,381

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

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Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, asset allocation, Berlin Wall, carbon-based life, centralized clearinghouse, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Gordon Gekko, informal economy, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, Pluto: dwarf planet, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, space pen, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, trade route, V2 rocket

* Adapted from an interview with Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, Comedy Central, April 8, 2010, http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/270038/april-08-2010/neil-degrasse-tyson. * Adapted from “Space: You Can’t Get There from Here,” Natural History, September 1998. * Before 1968 both US and Soviet astronauts relied on pencils; it was the Fisher Pen Company, not NASA, that identified the need for a “space pen,” in part because of the zero-G environment but also because of the flammability of the pencil’s wood and lead in the pure oxygen atmosphere of the capsule. Fisher did not bill NASA for the development costs. Nevertheless, as the truth-seeking website Snopes.com opines in “The Write Stuff,” the lesson of this tale is valid, even though the example is fabricated. * Adapted from “Reaching for the Stars,” Natural History, April 2003

 

pages: 506 words: 167,034

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike Mullane

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affirmative action, Berlin Wall, blue-collar work, dark matter, Donald Trump, Donner party, feminist movement, financial independence, invisible hand, Magellanic Cloud, placebo effect, Potemkin village, publish or perish, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, space pen, Stephen Hawking, urban sprawl, Winter of Discontent

Keep my wife out of that filthy brain of yours.” Someday the blood shift of weightless flight will make for some very happy space colonists. During the last sleep period of the mission, I stayed awake in the upper cockpit to soak up the space sights that would have to last the rest of my terrestrial life. I wanted to listen to music as I did so and searched for my NASA-supplied Walkman. It took me a moment to find it. The inside of the cockpit was covered with Velcro pads, and everything we carried, from pencils to cameras to food containers to flashlights, had Velcro “hooks” glued to them so they could be anchored to a pad. The only problem was remembering where you anchored everything. On Earth, nobody ever had to look on a wall or ceiling for a misplaced item. In space you did. I put on headphones and inserted one of my personal-mix music tapes in the player (NASA allowed us six), then switched off the cockpit lights.

I made a second attempt to get my sword into its sheath, this time taking the weight of the UCD bladder in my hand so I would stay attached. I Velcroed the device around my waist, accepting the results whatever they might be. I had no choice. There was a countdown clock ticking. I finished dressing in my flight suit, then filled my pockets with spare prescription glasses, pencils, pressurized space pens, and barf bags…lots of barf bags. I put one in each of my chest pockets and a couple spares in other pockets. Would I be a victim of space sickness? I had been sick so many times in the backseats of various jets, I couldn’t believe I would be spared in space. I toyed with the idea of taking one of NASA’s antinausea pills, a mixture of scopolamine (a downer) and Dexedrine (an upper), but decided otherwise.

Fortunately the test only lasted thirty seconds. I wasn’t worried about dealing with the pain aboard the shuttle. If the suit ever pressurized in flight it would be because we had lost our cockpit atmosphere. In an emergency that dire, any suit pain would be insignificant. The suit check was nominal and the technicians removed my gloves and helmet. They handed me a tray of items to stow in my pockets. I loaded a gas-pressurized space pen in the left-sleeve pocket and checked that my parachute knife was in my “pecker pocket,” a sleeve on the inside of the left thigh. If I became entangled in my parachute and was being pulled to my death at sea, I could use the knife to hack at the shroud lines and hopefully save myself. In my right thigh pocket I placed my spare glasses. In addition to my wedding band, I had secreted my mom’s Psalm 91 in the case.