Robot surgeon to be tested on board international space station (ISS) – and one day will be able to independently conduct operations on people in space.
In 2024, a miniature surgical robot will travel to the space station, where it will demonstrate its ability to cut artificial tissue.
Scientists claim that one day he will be able to repair an astronaut’s ruptured appendix during a mission to Marsor to remove shrapnel from a soldier wounded by explosives thousands of miles away.
The ISS (pictured) is in low Earth orbit at an altitude of 254 miles. It travels around the world every 90 minutes at a speed of 5 miles per second.
WHAT IS WORLD ROBOT?
MIRA (Miniature In Vivo Robotic Assistant) is a robotic system developed by experts from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
MIRA can be administered through a small incision, allowing physicians to perform abdominal surgeries in a minimally invasive manner.
In previous tests, surgeons have successfully used the device to perform colon resections.
NASA announced in April that it had given the University of Nebraska-Lincoln $100,000 to prepare a surgical robot for its mission to the ISS in 2024.
MIRA is the brainchild of Shane Farritor, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) College of Engineering.
NASA announced in April that it had given the university $100,000 to prepare a surgical robot for its test mission in 2024.
“NASA has always supported this research, and as the culmination of these efforts, our robot will be able to fly on the International Space Station,” said Professor Farritor.
MIRA weighs only two pounds and is a long robotic cylinder with two movable teeth at the bottom.
Each of these pins has two tiny tools at the end – one for clamping objects and the other for cutting objects.
Eventually, they will be used to cut out and hold real human organs and tissues, but due to safety, years of research and development and testing must be completed first.
Currently, instruments are inserted through a single incision in the patient’s abdomen under the control of a nearby human operator at the surgeon’s console, but in the future, the robot may work autonomously.
“If humans go further and deeper into space, they may need surgery someday,” Professor Farritor said. “We are working towards that goal.”
During its journey aboard the space station, MIRA will operate autonomously, without the guidance of a doctor or astronaut, although it will not be near human tissue.
Inside an experimental cabinet the size of a microwave oven, he cuts taut rubber bands and pushes metal rings along the wire, gestures that mimic surgery.
MIRA weighs only two pounds and is a long robotic cylinder with two movable teeth at the bottom. Each of these pins has two tiny tools on the end – one for clamping things and the other for cutting things. Eventually, they will be used to cut and hold real human organs and tissues, but due to safety, years of testing must be completed first.
While Prof Farritor expects MIRA to operate on its own in 50 to 100 years, the goal of the 2024 mission is not autonomy, but fine-tuning the robot’s performance in zero gravity.
The device is programmed to operate autonomously to conserve space station bandwidth and minimize the time that astronauts spend on the experiment.
“The astronaut flips the switch, the process starts, and the robot does its job on its own,” Professor Farritor said. “Two hours later, the astronaut turns it off and you’re done.”
Over the next year, he and UNL engineering graduate student Rachel Wagner will work together on the last steps before launch.
Nebraska mechanical engineering professor Shane Farritor (pictured) invented MIRA, described as a miniature remote surgery robot.
They will write the software, configure MIRA to fit in the space station’s experiment locker, and test the device extensively to make sure it’s robust enough to survive launch and its systems perform as expected in space.
MIRA’s surgical abilities have already been proven on the ground – in a previous MIRA experiment, retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson took over control of the robot from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
He assigned MIRA to perform surgical-like tasks in an operating room 900 miles from the University of Nebraska Medical Center at Omaha.
Professor Farritor and his colleagues have been developing MIRA for almost 20 years. In 2006, he co-founded Virtual Incision, a campus-based startup in Nebraska, to bring it to life.
To date, the company has raised over $100 million in venture capital since its inception.
EXPLANATION: A 100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION IS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH
The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering lab located 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth.
Since November 2000, it has been constantly staffed with interchangeable crews of cosmonauts and cosmonauts.
The crews came mainly from the US and Russia, but astronauts were also sent by the Japanese space agency JAXA and the European space agency ESA.
The International Space Station has been in continuous use for over 20 years and has been expanded with many new modules and system upgrades.
Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low gravity or oxygen.
ISS research focuses on human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy, and meteorology.
The US space agency, NASA, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, with the remaining funding coming from international partners including Europe, Russia and Japan.
So far, 244 people from 19 countries have visited the station, including eight private individuals who have spent up to $50 million on their visit.
There is ongoing debate about the future of the station after 2025, when part of the original design is thought to reach “end of life”.
Russia, the station’s main partner, plans to launch its own orbital platform around the same time, and private firm Axiom Space plans to simultaneously send its own modules to the station for purely commercial use.
NASA, ESA, JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working together to build a space station in orbit around the Moon, while Russia and China are working on a similar project that will also include a surface base.