Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Launches Exclusive Retro 51 Pen

astronaut scholarship retro 51 pen
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has partnered with Retro 1951 to offer the exclusive "On the Shoulders of Giants" Retro 51 Tornado rollerball pen. (Image credit: Astronaut Scholarship Foundation)

A new collectible pen comes with a unique feature: the ability to help underwrite the future of U.S. space exploration.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) has partnered with Retro 1951, the maker of the popular Tornado line of rollerball pens, to offer a new writing instrument in support of the foundation's "On the Shoulders of Giants" campaign.

"The campaign is part of the largest fundraising effort that ASF has ever embarked on," the foundation described in its announcement of the "On the Shoulders of Giants" pen on Friday (Sept. 21). "ASF was created by the Mercury 7 astronauts and it's been on their shoulders that the organization has inspired, supported and helped shape the next generation of inventors through the scholarship recipients." [Apollo 11's Scariest Moments: Perils of the 1st Manned Moon Landing]

The ASF awards 50 scholarships valued up to $10,000 to U.S. college students excelling in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) degrees. In addition to financial support, the scholars receive networking, professional development and mentoring opportunities from the foundation's Apollo and space shuttle-era astronaut members, as well as from other scholars and technology leaders throughout their careers.

The ASF launched the "On the Shoulders of Giants" campaign to raise $3.2 million, matching the funds that will be generated from its part in the U.S. Mint's 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin program beginning in January. Proceeds from the ASF's new Retro 51 "On the Shoulders of Giants" pens will go toward that fund.

"The moon landing was one of humankind's greatest achievements, and this monumental feat wouldn't have been possible without nearly 10 years of talent, ambition and courage put forth from giants within the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs," said Tammy Sudler, president and CEO of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. "Their work unleashed a wave of global innovation and inspired generations to pursue STEM careers."

"This campaign not only honors their legacies, but the entire space journey through present day and into the future. Money raised will fund our prestigious scholarship program and propel the next era of explorers and innovators," said Sudler.

The exclusive, numbered "On the Shoulders of Giants" Retro 51 pens feature the campaign's astronaut-themed artwork both on the pen and its tube packaging. The pens debut for sale on Friday (Sept. 21) through the ASF website for $55 each.

The "On the Shoulders of Giants" pen features an astronaut-theme wraparound design. (Image credit: Astronaut Scholarship Foundation)

Retro 51 previously offered three limited edition space-related pens, including one themed to Project Apollo and a "Mission to Mars" pen inspired by NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The company's first pen to celebrate space history, the Saturn V rocket inspired-"Lift Off," was voted the company's most popular pen.

"We were really honored when we were contacted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation," said Ross Cameron, spokesman for Retro 1951. "The more we talked about working together, the more it seemed like a natural fit for both them and for us. We are pleased we were able to put this project together for them."

The partnership between the ASF and Retro 1951 will continue later this winter with the debut of a new series of pens celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Over the course of the past three decades, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation has awarded more than $4.5 million to more than 500 students who have gone on to develop technological innovations in health care, energy, defense, aerospace, homeland security and many other fields in science and technology.

In 2013, Christina Hammock Koch became the first ASF scholar to be selected for NASA's astronaut corps. She is assigned to fly to the International Space Station in 2019.

Watch a video about the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's On the Shoulders of Giants campaign at collectSPACE.

Follow on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. Copyright 2018 All rights reserved.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.