Remotely Controlled Surgical Robot to Board the International Space Station

No matter how mentally and physically prepared, future astronauts bound for deep space cannot escape its deadly restrictions. At some point during their long, isolated journeys, these pioneers may need medical attention. But this is difficult. In space, there are no hospitals.

Type MIRA.

On Tuesday, scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said their invention of a small surgical robot — called a miniaturized in vivo robotic assistant, or MIRA — will embark on the International Space Station for zero-gravity testing in 2024. o The team’s hope is that MIRA will accompany astronauts as they fly toward Mars and roam the pristine reaches of space.

“As people go deeper and deeper into space, they may need surgery someday. We are working towards that goal,” Shane Farritor said in a statement. Farritor is a professor of engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and co-founder of Virtual Incision, the company behind MIRA.

The 2-pound bot basically looks like a white rod with a couple of small arm-like attachments on one end. These accessories are adorned with two brass instruments. It is the product of nearly 20 years of development – Virtual Incision has achieved over $100 million in venture capital investment since its genesis in 2006. To add to this, NASA recently awarded the University of Nebraska-Lincoln $100,000 to prepare the device for the 2024 journey.

International Space Station

A view of the International Space Station, where MIRA is expected to live in a few years.


Already, according to a press release about the robotic surgeon, MIRA has helped with important procedures. Doctors have successfully used the instrument to perform minimally invasive colon resections, for example, which involve removing part or all of a patient’s colon.

If MIRA works well in space, a surgeon aboard the ISS could harness the technology to help astronauts who need medical assistance, without posing major risks to their bodies. The MIRA may be especially important given the lack of personnel, time and tools on the spacecraft.

In addition, the team says its technology could also allow ground-based surgeons to work remotely on an astronaut patient in space.. ONEAs a proof of principle, NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson took control of the robot while at Johnson Space Center in Houston and guided MIRA to perform surgery-like tasks in an operating room 900 miles away at the University Medical Center. from Nebraska. It worked.

This remote control aspect of the MIRA could also help with surgeries closer to home one day – an example the team gives is wounded soldiers in the field who need advanced procedures, calling in specialists elsewhere. In fact, with that in mind, the US Army also provided some funding for the MIRA project.

A black patient bed to which the MIRA is attached and hovering above.  Above the MIRA are two round surgical lights.

This is what the MIRA attached to a patient bed might look like.

virtual incision

In 2024, we’ll have a better idea of ​​how MIRA fares in intense situations.

If MIRA can survive the aggressive jerks that accompany rocket launches, it will reach the ISS and be immediately placed inside a space station experiment closet. According to the team, it will likely be a year before astronauts performing science experiments can put it to work. Then, once powered on, the robotic contraption will work autonomously, Farritor said.

“The astronaut presses a button, the process begins and the robot does its job on its own,” he said. “Two hours later, the astronaut shuts down and that’s it.”

Recently, extraterrestrial surgery has become more talked about, given the goal of space agencies to send humans to other planets and create new forms of transport to access deep space. In April, NASA still “Holported” Flight Surgeon Dr. Josef Schmid to the ISS as part of its effort to advance remote cosmic medicine. Combined with MIRA, this mechanism suggests that one day life may indeed be mimicking Star Trek when it comes to health.

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