Personal lighting system for use on Mars. (2017)
Helios is a lighting system designed for cave exploration on Mars. Taking weather, safety and space suit movement limitations into consideration, Helios delivers a utilitarian solution to aid the advancement of our understanding of Mars.
What astronauts used
The only precedent we have for surface exploration was the mission to the Moon where the astronauts relied on head mounted light units and struggled with the dexterity of the space suit. The movement of the astronaut was severely constricted from the suit's pressure causing them pain during their work.
Visibility, Comfort and Reliability
Due to the harsh red sand storms on Mars, visibility and reliability of tools for the astronauts are paramount. Helios using a special color spectrum and focusing system to help cut through the sand to improve visibility. The movement in a spacesuit glove is extremely limited so Helios' form and light placement works to minimize unneeded movement or use of strength. Lastly, Helios' form features a more streamline look to prevent sand from getting stuck on the product as well as not to puncture the space suit.
Researching for the conditions on Mars was difficult since the information is still scarce. I was able to interview some JPL engineers along side an astronaut that has been to space. While they provided me great information about the user, I still needed to make sure I took the unique weather into consideration. I ended up getting extremely helpful insight from professional Baja racers and soldiers who deployed in the Middle East. The Baja racers face similar issues with visibility when racing through the sand. Soldiers also had to deal with similar issues when patrolling through sandstorms.
To better understand the dexterity issues of their gloves, different kit bashed objects were tested. Stuffing and layering different gloves helped emulate the space suit gloves allowing a more accurate evaluation.
By researching other industries like desert racing, I was able to obtain information on the proper lighting for particular red sand situations. Additionally, visits with JPL engineers provided insight on the space suit and other logistical insights.
How Helios works
Helios features two different light positions. The top light uses lidar to automatically focus the beam for better visibility. The front light is a 180 degree light meant for a wider visibility, especially when in caves. The lighting spectrum is designed to specifically work with the red tint in the Mar's sand. The handle allows the user to hold the light with a relaxed grip without dropping it.
Helios was designed specifically for astronauts to explore Mars with the advantage of good visibility, comfort and reliability.