My favourite story about the space race is that because it was supposed that a standard ballpoint pen would not work in zero gravity because the ink woudn’t flow, NASA spent millions of dollars developing the zero-g Space Pen, while the pragmatic Russians came up with the alternative of using a simple pencil or wax crayons.
It’s a good story but sadly there is no truth in it at all. The pen was actually developed by a man called Paul Fisher (born 10th October 1913) and he did not receive any government funding at all for its development. Fisher invested millions of his own money and invented it independently, and then asked NASA to try it. They liked it and bought four hundred at $2.95 each! After the introduction of the Space Pen, both the American and Soviet space agencies adopted it.
An amusing footnote to the story is that apparently it turns out that a standard biro will work in space after all.
I like the idea of using a pencil or crayon – just eminently practical!