Tag Archives: space shuttle

DC Pen Show Was Din-O-Mite!

ThePenMarket.com just celebrated its 10th birthday in style at the Washington DC Pen Show! I can’t believe we have never gone in the past. Despite some organizational hiccups, it was phenomenal. So many pens! So many collectors! So many new and old friends!

This is a Neuport 28 fighter plane used by the Americans against the Germans in World War I

My four days at the show were my four hardest working days of the year. Surrounded by so many great folks, it was all pens from sun-up until well past midnight some nights. It was especially great meeting several long-time Mid-Atlantic customers for the first time in the flesh.

So many pens, supplies, ephemera…

Working my table, I don’t have time to shop much at the show, so my one real show purchase for myself was my long-desired Mont Blanc Boheme with the rarer emerald clip stone. I’ve always loved these modern recreations of the “safety” fillers. Who doesn’t love retractable nibs on fountain pens?

Three WWI planes rest side-by-side when 100 years ago they would have been in a desperate fight to the death. Please note the excessively frail design of the twin-engine observation plane on the top of the photo.

For me the trip to and from is also part of my vacation time. On the way down to DC, I stopped at the Civil War battlefield of Antietam. It is breath-taking to stand on the site where more than 23,000 Americans were killed or wounded in a single day of combat. Sept. 17, 1862. The battlefield has been beautifully preserved by the National Park Service, which tries its best to recreate exactly the way the battlefield looked on the morning of Sept. 17. Kudos to them for their efforts. I won’t bore you with all the bullets and history this time around, but I learned so much from the rangers that most books seem to leave out.

It was a far more political battle than normally gets described, and while the soldiers basically fought to a tactical draw, the North crushed the South’s political goals and ambitions with its incursion into Union territory.

On the way home, I visited my other historical obsession: aviation! I went to the new branch of the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum out by Dulles Airport! This was absolutely fantastic. From an only-one remaining and phenomenally frail looking twin-engine World War I trench observation plane to the Space Shuttle Discovery, it is truly impossible to grapple with all of the rare planes that broke myriad records and the gear from some of the most famous people in aviation. I loved seeing the uniform of America’s top WWI ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Seeing one of Amelia Earhart’s flight jumpsuits was great. There are even items from Charles Lindbergh.

Okay. It isn’t that disappointing. The P-40 is easily my favorite plane from World War II, although this is not a genuine original used by the famed Flying Tigers. It still looks pretty nice hanging from the ceiling!

World War II aviation is my favorite, and the museum did not disappoint. Okay, I was actually really disappointed that they mocked up a P-40J Kittyhawk to look like a real plane used by the Flying Tigers when it never saw that actual action. BUT, the collection of insanely rare and limited German and Japanese planes was especially mind numbing. Many were the only remaining examples.

It is difficult to imagine any such museum where an actual space shuttle is just not as impressive as the rest of the collection. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how huge the space shuttle is. Plus, looking into the restoration hanger means that even more great rarities will soon be on their way.

Space Pen to the Rescue

My dented rear wheel well provides the backdrop for my heroic Fisher Space Pen that I can vouch for working after sitting overnight in -13-degree weather.

My dented rear wheel well provides the backdrop for my heroic Fisher Space Pen that I can vouch for working after sitting overnight in -13-degree weather.

I was peacefully minding my own business in the left turn lane on the morning Chicago had a high temperature of -13 degrees Fahrenheit. As I watched the cross street’s light turn from green to yellow a crunching sound was seemingly deafening as my car lerched forward after some unlucky driver came careening into my rear quarter panel.

It was not the morning wake up I had wanted, but luckily the other driver and I were both safe and unhurt in the collision. Although it sounded terrible, the damage done to my passenger side was more cosmetic than structural. As luck would have it, a policeman had just pulled up to the other left turn lane to come up that same street.

If you are going to get rear-ended on the coldest day of the decade, that’s the way to do it.

Unfazed, I turned to the glove box for some scratch paper and my beat-up old Fisher Space Pen to get the guy’s insurance info.

I’m here to tell you, the advertising is all true. Fisher Space Pens can write in the coldest extremes!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Fisher Space Pen, it was invented for the exact reason it was named. Paul Fisher invented the Space Pen for NASA! NASA was looking for a writing instrument in space that didn’t need gravity to supply ink, was capable of writing in any environment on any surface. Paul Fisher realized it all came down to the ink refill. So he pressurized a ballpoint pen cartridge with a special formula ink that can write upside down, under water and on glass in any temperature range astronauts could conceivably experience from extreme cold to extreme heat.

The pens were a huge success on the Apollo missions and beyond. Fisher would introduce them to the public, where they have been an even bigger success. Police, firefighters, emergency workers and construction workers seem to universally love these pens that just don’t quit.

While I never disbelieved the advertising, I had never before put my old pen to the test in subzero temperatures. I am pleased to say it lived up to its promise. I just wish I had some for sale so that all of you could have the ultimate in emergency back-up pens or daily writers.

Oh, yes. Inevitably, someone will mention that the government wasted thousands of dollars helping to develop the Space Pen and that rival Soviet cosmonauts had a far cheaper solution to writing in space…a pencil. However, pencil shavings and graphite dust get dangerous in space. Without gravity, the graphite and wood dust build up quickly and become damaging to the lungs and sinuses. It also gets in the eyes, as well as the electronics and machinery. In the long run, the Space Pen is and was the way to go.