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spaceMIRA Completes the First Telesurgery in Space


A tiny surgical robot named spaceMIRA successfully performs and completes the first simulated surgery at the space station. At the time of the simulated operation, SpaceMIRA was remotely operated by surgeons from around 250 miles (400 kilometers) below in Lincoln, Nebraska.

spaceMIRA, which stands for Miniaturized In Vivo Robotics Assistant, is a remotely operated robot created by Virtual Incision. The robot weighs 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms), has a compact microwave-size design, and has two arms that allow it to perform surgery. Mimicking a surgeon, spaceMIRA’s arms have assignments — the left arm is used to grasp and the right arm is used for cutting (or slicing).

Shedding more light on spaceMIRA’s design is Shane Farritor, cofounder and chief technology offer at Virtual Incision, “It gives smaller hands and eyes to the surgeon (on Earth) and allows them to perform a lot of procedures minimally invasive,”, he says.

spaceMIRA Completes the First Telesurgery in Space

The telesurgery happened on a Saturday after spaceMIRA arrived at the space station on February 1. Said demonstration sought the help of a remote surgeon to control spaceMIRA’s arms to provide tension to the simulated tissue on one hand and the other hand to dissect the elastic tissue with scissors. Seeing as how the operation performed is still a demonstration, the team made use of rubber bands as makeshift tissues. A total of six remote surgeons performed tests with spaceMIRA, and each of them had a common surgical task. Farritor reports that all six operations were successful.

However, one important finding they noted was the time delay experienced between receiving and sending commands to spaceMIRA. A colorectal surgeon, Dr. Michael Jobst, reports that the time delay experienced was around 0.85 of a second. While that might not seem a lot, he puts it into perspective by saying, “In a live patient, if there is bleeding, it’s my job to stop that bleeding immediately. But to have an 800 to 850-millisecond lag between seeing the blood loss and then doing something about it, I mean, effectively, that’s like…saying, OK, one Mississippi, two, and then I get to go ahead and fix the problem,”.

spaceMIRA Completes the First Telesurgery in Space

Nonetheless, spaceMIRA and this successful telesurgery demonstration are valuable findings in expanding surgical options on Earth, in distant places, and beyond. “As Farrior said, “There are a lot of places in the US … that don’t have access to specialists, and if you could perform telesurgery like this, where you could have an expert dial in from a larger city into a rural area and assist with some surgical care, I think that’s got huge advantages.”. With that, spaceMIRA can potentially expand its services in rural areas or military battlefields, aside from extending its services in space.

spaceMIRA is certainly a giant leap in the industry of surgical robots and healthcare. One can’t help but wonder what the future might bring for robotic surgery, robots in space, and more.

Sota Takahashi

Sota Takahashi is a Japanese-born electrical engineer. At the age of 18, he moved to Seattle and completed his Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Washington, Seattle. Being a fan of all things tech, he channels his geeky side through this website, and with his wife Linda, shares knowledge about robot pets and how they can be lifelong and advantageous companions for both children and the elderly.

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