MIRA: the surgeon robot that will go into space

NASA plans to send the first humans on mars in the 2040s, but what 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 within hours, deep space travel is an entirely different proposition.

To meet 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 remotely controllable instrumental arms for minimally invasive surgeries.

Developed by Nebraska-based Virtual Incision with input from a team from 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 deep space missions. During testing aboard the orbital outpost, MIRA will operate inside a microwave-sized experiment locker and perform procedures that mimic those used in surgery, such as cutting simulated fabrics and manipulating small objects, the agency said 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 versus payload . The accompanying remote console, with its hand and foot controls, gives the surgeon full control of the MIRA’s instrument arms and a real-time endoscopic view of anatomy, with the layout familiar to those working on the 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 room. planet operation. said John Murphy, CEO of Virtual Incision. “Working with NASA on board the space station will test how MIRA can make surgery accessible even in the most remote locations.”

Shane Farritor, co-founder and chief technology officer of Virtual Incision, said that as NASA prepares for long-duration space travel, it’s “important to test technology capabilities that can be beneficial on measured missions. 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 so far in clinical trials. We are excited to go 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 care still require astronauts to undergo special training before leaving Earth for the ISS.

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