A Long Distance Pillow that allows astronauts prepare and eat their meals like on earth
Prompt: Design a product that interests you and represents you as a designer
Preparing food in space can be a anxious and complicated experience. In zero-gravity food tends to float around aimlessly which can make the prepping process difficult. Many of the astronauts have to be quick so their food does not float off.
A brief understanding
Astronauts live and work in space for 6 months at a time. The ISS generally holds a crew that can range from three and six people.
Hygiene, eating, exercising and sleeping are completely different experiences in space. Weightlessness pushes them to adapt these activities.
The food station
On the ISS the current food station is located in node 1, also know as the Unity connecting module. It connects the Russian and United States segments of the station, and is where crew eat meals together. I took note of some important features such of the foo station to better understand the user experience.
Large + small clips
For my thesis I really wanted to understand the experience of preparing and eating food in space, so I took a deep dive and tried to find as much information as I could. Below is a video I found of astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, preparing food at the designated food station on the ISS.
As you could tell from the video there are a lot of pain points that I noticed while watching Samantha try to make her tortilla. I also had a lot of questions that came up and decided to try and goes them answered.
- Limited space at the food station
- Food is constantly floating away
- Prepping meals can be an anxious activity
- Astronauts must take turns preparing food
- Hands are full when eating food
Learning about life in space, we see that daily tasks are much more challenging and different then they are on earth.
If we are to continue sending astronauts to live in space then we must design ways to make everyday life in space familiar and easier.
Of course I started out not knowing what direction I might take so I explored different ideas and honed in on my top three concepts.
After choosing a top concept I began to iterate on the forms and details of the tray.
Referencing the current food station, I started to refine the concept and took the idea through an evolution shown below.
Finally, I decided that I wanted to pursue a final direction that includes the unique lateral hinge system and the form from iteration 07.
FDA approved sous vide weight magnets that are made of non-toxic, food safe materials. The magnet is burrowed in the center of a hard piece of silicone.
Electric gyroscopes that are battery-powered and have a motor. In fact, the ISS has its own gyroscope called the Control Moment Gyroscope.
I made some mock-ups with the few supplies I had in quarantine, so I got resourceful and fused concepts.
I made three main mock-ups which included features from concepts I wanted to test.
Some of those features were fun to test the practicality and get feedback on.
I learned that the openings should be at least 3 inches in width to consider larger hands.
The Zero Gravity tray allows astronauts to prep and eat meals on a stationary surface without having their food float away.
Wireless charging is available on the backside of the pillow and stay magnetically connected.
A slow blinking circle of light will show that the pillow is charging. When it is fully charged the circle will stop blinking and become a solid.
Photo credit: Claudia Bazan