Experimental robot performs simulated surgical operations aboard space station

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A miniature surgical robot aboard the International Space Station was tested in orbit for the first time, performing simulated operations in space while remotely controlled by surgeons back on Earth.

The robot, dubbed spaceMIRA (short for Miniaturized In Vivo Robotic Assistant), was developed by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The experiments were carried out Saturday at the space station on simulated tissue, as was first reported by CNN.

The technology could be crucial for addressing medical emergencies that may happen during long-duration spaceflights, such as on future missions to Mars or beyond. But the robot’s inventors say there are Earthly applications, such as in rural communities, military battlefields or other remote areas that lack adequate health care resources.

“While space travel is exciting to think about, there is also an immediate need on Earth to help patients get the care they need,” Shane Farritor, a professor of engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said in a statement shortly after the robot launched to the International Space Station.

Farritor is the co-founder and chief technology officer at Virtual Incision, a startup that aims to bring the tiny surgical robot to the commercial market.

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