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Friday, January 21, 2022
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“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” With those words proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961 – the “space race” between the United States of America and the Soviet Union began.

A few years prior, the Soviet Union’s first spacecraft launch changed the world overnight. “Sputnik” was the first artificial satellite to enter the atmosphere and pass over the United States. It wasn’t a one-time occurrence, it happened multiple times daily. The world had never seen this technology, and the potentials and threats were endless, sparking fear across the globe.

According to University of Virginia’s Miller Center research, Sputnik is largely considered to be the “starting point” of the space race because of its effect on both countries’ national agendas. National leaders from both governments recognized the importance of space exploration from a political perspective and began heavily funding research and development to further the cause.

Legend has it, NASA scientists realized that pens could not function in space effectively. They needed to figure out another way for the astronauts to write things down. So they spent years and millions of taxpayer dollars to develop a pen that could put ink to paper without gravity.

According to SceintificAmerican, a private creative investor, “Paul C. Fisher and his company, the Fisher Pen Company, reportedly invested $1 million to create what is now commonly known as the ‘space pen.’ In 1965 Fisher patented a pen that could write upside-down, in frigid or roasting conditions (down to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit or up to 400 degrees F), and even underwater or in other liquids. If too hot, though, the ink turned green instead of its normal blue.”

The Soviet Union, unlike the U.S., did not have anyone working on such lofty inventions which would enable “space writing.” NASA bought hundreds of these pens to ensure their astronauts could properly document the mission.

So the story goes, upon boarding their craft, the Soviet Union simply handed their cosmonauts pencils. Crisis solved.

When I first heard about this million-dollar pen and how it was countered by a no-frills pencil, I began thinking about all types of life lessons to be learned. I love the story, but, alas, my research has confirmed that it was nothing more than “a story.”

According to NASA, during its early missions, astronauts did, in fact, use pencils. The pencils used in space cost $128.89 each, which did create something of a controversy at the time, but not the millions claimed were being spent to develop a space pen. I was able to confirm that NASA did purchase hundreds of pens from the Fisher Co - but they paid $6 per pen.

Nevertheless, there is a lesson here. I recently got a call from a client whose Attorney told him to “get a second opinion” about the mortgage he was receiving from a large national bank. They claimed that because it was a $1 million loan amount, it became a “Jumbo” and was subject to higher rates and fees. The fact is, that is true. What they failed to tell him, or what they failed to consider, however, was that if the loan amount were simply reduced to a conforming amount of $970,800, they would be eligible for much more reasonable terms.

They were never told about such a solution. With the stroke of my pen, I signed off on the rate lock that saved this client over $400 a month and over $10,000 in upfront fees.

Shout out and happy birthday to Karen Abramson, Elissa Baer, Alana Bari, Jessica Elkaslasi, Josh Elstein, Devora Freeman, Ed Friedman, Sarah Frost, Miryam Fuld, Shmuel Herman, Shira Isenberg, Jason Jacobs, Jon Katz, Rina Schatz, and Jeremy Schiowitz.


Shmuel Shayowitz (NMLS#19871) is President and Chief Lending Officer at Approved Funding, a privately held local mortgage banker and direct lender. Approved Funding is a mortgage company offering competitive interest rates as well as specialty niche programs on all types of Residential and Commercial properties. Shmuel has over 20 years of industry experience, including licenses and certifications as a certified mortgage underwriter, residential review appraiser, licensed real estate agent, and direct FHA specialized underwriter. He can be reached via email at [email protected]

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