NASA is Shipping a Surgical Robot to the ISS

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A working surgical robot named MIRA is going to the International Space Station (ISS) — and if it can perform well through trial testing, it may one day help to save astronauts’ lives on Mars or the moon.

Medical Emergency on Board the ISS

Pretend that an astronaut on the ISS has an emergency. In this case, astronauts may use a capsule to return to the Earth in under six hours — it’s not near as quick as an ambulance that can get you to the hospital, but it is fast enough to prevent an appendix rupture.

Although people on Mars will not have that type of luxury, the 57-million-kilometre-long trek from Mars to Earth will take about nine months — and that is only if the planets are in alignment at departure time.

With a swift departure being out of the question, aiding the injured astronaut on Mars is the last option. Although if one of their other astronauts is a doctor, there is a great chance they will not be specialized in the type of surgery needed at the time.

The MIRA Surgical Robot

The answer to this issue might be MIRA, a minor surgical robot created by Shane Farritor, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

MIRA can be controlled remotely, meaning NASA may find a specialized doctor for whatever ailment an astronaut on Mars has and have that doctor do surgery from Earth. In addition, the surgical robot is only two pounds, so shipping it to Mars would be minimal in mission costs.

The MIRA Surgical Robot Tests

NASA plans to send the MIRA surgical robot for testing in 2024 to the ISS. Once the bot is on board the ISS, it will autonomously do simulated surgical activities — sliding metal rings on a wire and snipping stretched rubber bands.

By allowing the surgical robot to do these actions autonomously, the engineering team can try the bot’s abilities in microgravity without monopolizing the astronauts’ time or their communications systems.

Having Surgery on Mars

It is unclear how the MIRA surgical robot will overcome the communication delay between Mars and during surgery — depending on the planets’ alignment, their radio signals take about 5 to 20 minutes to travel between the worlds.

Farritor anticipates the bots can do surgeries autonomously 50 to 100 years from now, so NASA may be thinking long-term about the robot’s potential to aid astronauts on Mars, the moon, and beyond.

The Future of MIRA

As valued as the MIRA surgical robot may one day be to an astronaut, it is affecting Earth today, allowing doctors to perform successful surgeries in an ongoing study.

Suppose the research team can have regulatory approval for MIRA. In this case, the bot may one day be used in hospitals worldwide, making it possible for doctors to do surgeries on people thousands of miles away.

Alpha Brain

Dean Mathers

Editor-in-chief

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