MIRA is designed in such a way that it can work autonomously.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will soon send a miniaturized robotic surgeon named MIRA to the International Space Station who could one day perform minimally invasive, life-saving surgeries on deep space missions.
NASA has recently awarded $1,00,000 in funding to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through its Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (or EPSCoR) to get the tiny robot ready for the voyage in 2024.
According to a blog by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, MIRA, short for miniaturized in vivo robotic assistant, has two major benefits. “First, it can be inserted through a small incision, enabling doctors to perform abdominal surgery in a minimally invasive manner. In previous tests, surgeons have successfully used the device to perform colon resections.”
“Secondly, the technology could allow surgeons to work remotely — perhaps someday repairing an astronaut’s ruptured appendix on a mission to Mars or removing shrapnel from a soldier injured by an IED thousands of miles distant,” it added.
MIRA was invented by Professor Shane Farritor, who, along with his colleagues, has been working on developing the miniaturized robot for nearly 20 years. He and engineering graduate student Rachael Wagner will be writing software and configuring MIRA to fit inside a space station experiment locker. Furthermore, they will test the device to make sure it is robust enough to survive the launch and that its systems will perform as per expectations in space. After this, Farritor and Wagner will wait for around a year for the device to get its turn aboard the station.
MIRA is designed in such a way that it can work autonomously and without the guidance of a doctor or an astronaut. As mentioned earlier, MIRA will fly the space station packed inside a microwave oven-sized experiment locker, and further, it will perform tasks such as cutting tautly stretched rubber bands and pushing metal rings along a wire, gestures that simulate those used in surgery.
“As people go further and deeper into space, they might need to do surgery someday,” Farritor said in the blog. “We’re working toward that goal.”