Surgeries Now Being Done In Space By Robots?

By Kristi Eckert | Published

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Surgeries aren’t being performed in space by robots, just yet. But they will be. As humans continue to break new barriers and tackle new frontiers in the great unknown that is space, scientists are thinking ahead. A robot called MIRA has been designed to perform surgeries in space. 

Scientists operating out of the University of Nebraska’s Lincoln campus developed a robot called MIRA. MIRA was made with the purpose of performing surgeries in space. The robot is scheduled to hop aboard the International Space Station in 2024 for the first time. This initial venture though, won’t involve any surgeries. Instead, MIRA will be undergoing zero-gravity testing to make sure it’s suited to operate adequately in that kind of environment. 

MIRA was largely the brainchild of Shane Farritor. Farritor is both a professor of engineering at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the co-founder of Virtual Incision. The latter is the company that drove and funded the project. Farritor, Virtual Incision, and the team at the University know that in the coming years traveling to Mars is going to become a reality. And that is just the beginning. Astronauts who are in space for that long will inevitably be met with health conditions and ailments that could very well require surgical expertise. Hence the development of MIRA. “As people go further and deeper into space, they might need to do surgery someday. We’re working toward that goal,” said Farritor

MIRA isn’t new to surgery though. The robot has been performing them here on Earth to test its skills. Over the past couple of years, MIRA has been used to perform less-invasive surgeries like colon resections. A colon resection is where a small portion of someone colon’s is removed. 

MIRA is a tiny little thing. Weighing in at only 2 pounds, essentially it looks like an arm with two finger-like appendages extending outward from its base. More detail can be found here on Virtual Incision’s website. According to its website, MIRA can be easily installed in any surgical area. 

Moreover, MIRA doesn’t do surgery all by itself. It works via a surgeon operating it through remote control. This is exceedingly beneficial for those needing surgery while in space, considering that a whole team of doctors won’t be traveling aboard any given mission. CNET pointed on that this functionality has already started to be tested on land. One doctor, operating out of Johnson Space Center in Houston used MIRA to perform a test surgery at a facility that was 900 miles away at the campus in Nebraska. 

The possibilities that go alongside the utilization of MIRA in space are both immense and exciting. In the future, MIRA will help to give those traveling in space extra peace of mind should they fall ill and need surgery. That being said, MIRA also poses benefits for those here at home on Earth, too. Other possible uses for MIRA include remote surgeries that need to be performed on military personnel. Or should another pandemic instance arise, remote surgeries could save the lives of those unable to leave their homes. The merit behind MIRA is really limitless, both technologically and medically.