Extraterrestrial Surgery with an In-Vivo Bot

A new miniature robot could be crucial to deep space missions, performing surgical procedures when astronauts are far off world.

Surgery,Space, Robot, Mars, Moon, ColonyA new pair of miniature robot arms could be the key to conducting life saving procedures on the International Space Station and other off world venues.

While the ISS and space-faring vessels are certainly considered high-tech facilities they lack proper emergency medical facilities. With walls of equipment meant to measure the most delicate of physical phenomenon, there’s hardly any room for a surgical suite among the station’s scientific labyrinth. To make up for that lack of space researchers are working on a miniature surgical robot that can be inserted inside an ailing astronaut’s anatomy.

Created by Virtual Incision, the currently unnamed sub-kilo robot is a two-armed device that would be inserted into patients through their belly buttons. Once inside the abdominal cavity, an astronaut’s body would be filled with inert gases to allow the robot room to maneuver. With ample room at its disposal, Incision’s mechanical surgeon will then get to work cleaving cancerous tissues or removing infected appendixes.

In the near term, researchers are developing their robot to undertake procedures while being guided by the steady hand of a trained crewmember. In the future, space-board medical machines could be loaded with libraries of surgical know-how and given free rein to clip, snip and suture troubling tissue.

Although still being developed in labs here on Earth, the robo-surgeon’s creators believe their machine’s design could be useful to ambitious enterprises looking to stake claims on our solar neighbors. “While this work is in an early phase, the minimal invasiveness of this approach could enable its use in remote locations such as on a moon or Mars colony” write researchers in a Virtual Incisions white paper. 

With parabolic flight scheduled for later this year, Virtual Incision’s in-vivo operator might be on board some of the first manned missions to Mars. If it does make it aboard, astronauts and their minders back in mission control will be able to breathe a bit easier knowing that complicated medical procedures aren’t millions of miles away.

Image and Video Courtesy of Virtual Incision