NASA plans to send the first humans to mars sometime in the 2040s, but what happens if one of the crew suffers a serious health problem during such a long mission?
Unlike the International Space Station (ISS), where an astronaut can return to Earth for emergency medical assistance in a matter of hours, deep space travel is an entirely different proposition.
To overcome this challenge, NASA is preparing to test a remote surgical robot called MIRA (miniaturized in vivo robotic assistant), a high-tech device comprising a main section equipped with two instrument arms that can be controlled from afar for minimally controlled surgeries. invasive
Developed by Nebraska-based Virtual Incision with input from a team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the MIRA device will be tested on the ISS in 2024 to find out if it is a viable medical tool for long manned missions into space. deep. During tests aboard the orbital outpost, MIRA will operate inside an experiment locker the size of a microwave oven and carry out procedures that mimic those used in surgery, such as cutting simulated tissue and handling small objects, the agency said. company in a statement.
Two decades in development, the robot’s light weight of two pounds and small size make it attractive to surgeons and ideal for use within the confines of a relatively small spacecraft with strict weight limitations relative to payload. The accompanying remote-operated console, with its hand and foot controls, gives the surgeon full control of the MIRA’s instrument arms and real-time endoscopic view of the anatomy, with the layout familiar to those working in the field. field today.
“The Virtual Incision MIRA platform was designed to deliver the power of a mainframe robotic-assisted surgery device in a miniaturized size, with the goal of making robotic-assisted surgery (RAS) accessible in any operating room on the planet. », said John Murphy, CEO of Virtual Incision. “Working with NASA aboard the space station will test how MIRA can make surgery accessible even in the most far-flung places.”
Shane Farritor, co-founder and chief technology officer of Virtual Incision, said that as NASA is making plans for long-duration space travel, it’s “important to test the capabilities of the technology that may be beneficial during missions measured in months and years.”
Farritor added: “MIRA continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in RAS, and we are pleased with its performance thus far during clinical trials. We are excited to go a step further and help identify what might be possible in the future as space travel becomes a reality for humanity.”
MIRA may be able to handle minimally invasive operations, but other procedures like dental work still require astronauts to undergo special training before leaving Earth for the ISS.