The simulated experiment marks one of the first times remote surgery tasks have been completed in space

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

February 19, 2024

2 Min Read
The robotic arm being loaded into its case
The robotic arm being loaded into its caseUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln

An experimental robot has completed its first simulated surgical operations in space, in a project innovators said could be “crucial” for long-haul space flights.

The robot, dubbed spaceMIRA (short for Miniaturized In Vivo Robotic Assistant), conducted the experiment aboard the International Space Station.

It was controlled remotely by surgeons back on Earth and operated on simulated tissue made out of rubber bands.

SpaceMIRA was developed by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and robotic startup Virtual Incision. It was launched into space at the end of January aboard a SpaceX rocket.

The experiment was deemed a “huge success” by Virtual Incision. According to the team, the tech could be “crucial” for medical emergencies during long-haul spaceflights, as well as for terrestrial applications such as serving communities with limited access to health care.

“While space travel is exciting to think about, there is also an immediate need on Earth to help patients get the care they need,” said Shane Farritor, Virtual Incision’s chief technology officer in a statement.

SpaceMIRA is the first surgical robot aboard the space station, and represents one of the first times remote surgery tasks have been tested in space.

Farritor said he and his colleagues began developing the robotic technology nearly 20 years ago and that it took around two years to get the design ready for space.

Related:Humanoid Robot Controlled by Astronaut in Space

The project has so far won two grants from NASA in 2022 and 2023 as part of its Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, with the funds used to prepare the robot for launch.

Farritor said his team will collect data on SpaceMIRA’s performance during its space station tests before it returns to Earth later this spring. It likely will be a year or more before test results are published.

“It’s taken a lot of testing to build up to this, and we’re still a long way from telesurgery on an actual patient,” Farritor said. “The first step is to demonstrate the technology.”

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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