It was probably the best $38 I ever spent. It bought me a pen that writes in the freezing cold and Africa hot desert heat; upside down, in the rain and underwater, even in the zero gravity of space—in short, a pen that can take anything the harshest conditions of this world and outer space can throw it at, and still keep working. All that for less than fifty bucks. *
NASA started issuing the AG-7 beginning with the Apollo 7 mission in 1968. Before that, Mercury and Gemini astronauts used pencils when working in zero gravity since the standard ballpoints of the era would not work in the weightless environment of space.
Pencils might have been good enough for the Red Commie Rooshians, but red-blooded American astronauts expected the best and brightest minds of western civilization to eventually crack the code on a space pen, and Paul Fisher didn’t let them down.
In 1965 he obtained Patent # 3,285,228, for the AG-7 pen. Fisher had perfected a pen refill using a “thixotropic ink-semisolid” that remained solid until the action of the rolling ball liquefied it only when the ink was needed.
The cartridge didn’t rely on gravity to work—it used pressurized nitrogen. That pressurized nitrogen is the true secret of the space pen. NASA tested the new pen for two years and after all that, gave it the big thumbs up and its place in history: it would ride to glory—and the Moon, with Apollo 11.
Two iconic pieces of NASA issue: Omega Speedmaster and Fisher AG-7
Since then, the AG-7 has been standard equipment on other NASA Apollo missions and shuttle flights, Soviet Soyuz and MIR flights, the Everest North Face Ski Expedition of 1997, and many, many other expeditions in challenging environments.
My requirements have always been more mundane. I keep my AG-7 in my briefcase as a go-anywhere, do-anything general use pen. I prefer to write with a fountain pen, especially my pet Parker “51” made in 1951, and find it smoother and less fatiguing to use than even a fine ballpoint.
But when I need a pen to work, under any and all conditions, I reach for the AG-7. I always travel with it (fountain pens don’t always play well when traveling in aircraft with all the pressure changes) and in fact the AG-7 is part of my standard travel check list along with my shaving kit and socks.
Like the old American Express commercials used to say, I “never leave home without it.”
They are still made in the USA from a design that has not changed since 1969. And yes, they are still made from heavy brass and steel components that are then finished with a heavy coat of chrome plating. These are not the cheap plastic pens you are used to writing with and throwing away when they stop working.
The Fisher Space Pens —especially the iconic AG-7 model— are worthy of your consideration and I wouldn’t be caught dead without mine.
VCH recommends it as one of our favorite all-time great buys for well-made, enduring products.
* At this writing, the retail price of the AG-7 is $58. Shopping on the internet will usually find brand new examples for around $40.