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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Robotic space surgeon makes first incision in zero gravity

In case you’ve not all caught up, scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – sponsored by NASA – created a robot called MIRA that they want to use to perform surgery in space.

Creator: Craig Chandler | Credit: Office of University Communication | Copyright: © 2018

The robotic surgeon was sent to space this year. Last week, the scientists behind MIRA announced that the space robot has been successfully tested although not on a real human.

Instead, MIRA was used to make an incision on a total of 10 rubber bands strung up to mimic human tissue. It was being remotely controlled by surgeons connected to the International Space Station from Lincoln, Nebraska.

The incredible thing about MIRA is how small it is. Instead of a massive piece of equipment occupying an entire room, MIRA is only around 30 inches long and two pounds.

As you can imagine, one of the challenges that the surgeons are having to deal with is lag due to the distance between earth and the International Space Station (ISS). That and the fact that they are operating in zero gravity.

"You have to wait a little bit for the movement to happen, it's definitely slower movements than you're used to in the operating room," said Lincoln-based surgeon Michael Jobst, who had the first go at the controls.

Jobst has been a key member in the team testing  MIRA on Earth, and has even performed colorectal surgery on a human patient using the device.

To counter the lag, MIRA engineers scaled the controls to require larger motions from surgeons to perform comparably smaller actions by the robot.

The robotic surgeon is part of NASA’s efforts to ensure the well-being of astronauts at the ISS as space missions become longer.

A useful invention considering that the ISS is not expansive and hence every person that lands there needs to be adding some kind of value.


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