A robotic surgeon is set to be tested aboard the International Space Station to one day be able to operate independently on humans in space.
After years of support and sponsorship from NASA, scientists in Nebraska have developed a robot called MIRA, which stands for “In Vivo Miniature Robotic Assistant.” And in 2024, the miniature surgical robot will blast off toward the space station, where it will prove its ability to cut tissue that mimics real tissue.
Scientists say it could one day repair an astronaut’s ruptured appendix during a mission to Mars, or remove shrapnel from a soldier who exploded thousands of miles away.
The robot was created by Shane Variator, a professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In April, NASA announced that it had awarded the university $100,000 to prepare the surgical robot for a test mission in 2024.
The robot weighs just two pounds and is essentially a long robotic cylinder with two prongs that move at the bottom. And each of these two forks has two small tools at the end, one for locking things, the other for clipping things.
Ultimately, the robot will be used to cut and preserve real human organs and tissues, but years of research, development and testing must be completed first.
Currently, the instruments are inserted through a single incision in the patient’s abdomen, and are controlled by a human operator nearby in the surgeon’s console, but in the future, the robot could be made to operate independently.
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