Mons Tool Co.

Industrial Design, Identity, & Research | MFA Thesis ❧
As part of my MFA thesis at SVA Product of Design, I created a pair of geology hammers to be used by the first human astronauts to explore the surface of Mars. The hammers were developed using similar tool shapes to modern geology hammers while also updating their handle shape to have a form that fits into the astronaut's gloved hand.

Currently, most astronaut equipment falls into two categories: cheap off-the-shelf products or expensive one-of-a-kind specialty equipment. While interviewing former astronaut Nicole Stott at the Beyond the Cradle event at the MIT Media Lab, I was surprised to learn that many of the tools astronauts on the International Space Station use could also be found at a local hardware store. While this was not true during the Apollo missions, this also means that many modern tools are not built for use in a spacesuit. Nicole also mentioned having attachment points so that the tool is not misplaced and that combining tools creates a better use case for space hardware.

From Nicole's insights, I knew my tool needed to feature a redesigned handle; it required a few other pieces to make sure it perfectly fits my audience. The two hammers I ended up producing from a set of five designs were as much an exploration into movie prop making as it was rapid prototyping for eventual industrial design. Not only did the hammers need to be plausible, but they also needed to speak toward the future they lived in.

To solve for the insights Nicole gave me, I made each of the two handles feel vastly different in hand, allowing for an astronaut to know which hammer (the sledge or the pick) they were holding without visual confirmation. I gave them a paint scheme of green-blue so they had maximum visibility on the surface of Mars to prevent loss in the field. Finally, I added a metric measurement guide for field samples so that the hammer was both the sample collection device and the ruler.

As the final part of the product, I created a commercial to showcase the product in its natural habitat on the surface of Mars. This commercial was shot entirely in the PoD studio on a black seamless backdrop using four lbs. of organic cocoa powder to create Martian dust analogue and torn closed cell foam to make the rocks.

I, of course, could not have done this without the incredible talents of Zihan Chen's cinematography and Runshi Wei's lighting. In addition, I am eternally grateful and could not have done any of my thesis without my cohort and faculty at MFA Products of Design at The School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Industrial Design, Prototyping, Production Design,
Design Research, Film Direction


SVA MFA Products of Design

Sinclair Smith
Allan Chochinov


Zihan Chen
- Cinematography
Runshi Wei - Lighting

Subject Matter Expert
Nicole Stott
A blue-green sledgehammer with the words "Mons Tool Co." printed on the side sitting in a white seamless background.
A close-up shot of the "sledge-style" hammer shows its measurement scale in centimeters on the head of the hammer.
A behind-the-scenes shot from the Mons Tool Co. commercial showing the sledgehammer on a mound of cocoa powder analog "Martian Dust" and foam "Martian Rocks".
A wide shot from behind the scenes of the Mons Tool Co. commercial shows the black photography seamless backdrop with a mound of cocoa powder and foam rocks.
A full frame of sketches that informed the visual language of the final hammers.
Four hammers show the evolution from sketch prototype to unpainted final model with sanded primer to achieve final surface quality.
Unpainted final models with sanded gray primer to achieve final surface quality.
Product shots of the final hammers & sketch prototypes
Behind the scenes of the Mons Tool Co. Commercial
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