Break the Chain Out-Of-This-World Prices!

Exclusive (2/19/2002) We find both humor and outrage in tales of extravagant government spending to solve a simple problem. Unfortunately, these tales often twist, exaggerate or fabricate the truth for dramatic effect. This one is a bit of humor that has no basis in reality.

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When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 million developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300C.

When confronted with the same problem, the Russians used a pencil.

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If you've ever tried to write on a piece of paper taped to the wall with a ball point pen, you know that they need gravity to work properly. It is true that the space program needed to devise an alternative writing implement for the zero gravity conditions of space, but that's where this chain's accuracies end.

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This version states the development of the pen cost $12 million. I've seen versions that put the cost as low as $1.5 million and as high as $12 billion. I guess someone along the way thought that if it was outrageous at $12 million, it would be 1000 times as outrageous at $12 billion.

But, as Snopes.com points out, the Fisher Space Pen, specifically designed for the space program, cost NASA just $2.95 each (contrast that with a retail price of $20-80 a pop). The manufacturers of the pen also point out that the Russian's pencil solution is problematic because of the possibility of debris. So, this is just one more example of out-of-this-world government spending that just doesn't have any space legs. Break this Chain!

What Do You Think?

Category: General Junk
References: Snopes.com

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