Nothing worse than coming down with appendicitis on the moon. Luckily, when the next manned moon missions take place (and that will be when…?), the crew of hardened former military pilots won’t have to bring along some wuss MD. Instead, they’ll have a robotic surgery system onboard:
Using a cramped undersea laboratory off Florida’s Atlantic coast, NASA astronauts and medical experts have teamed with an experimental robot to demonstrate long-distance surgical procedures that might one day save the life of a critically injured explorer on the moon or Mars.
…During their stay aboard the 43-foot-long Aquarius, submerged among the coral reefs off Key Largo, Fla., physician Tim Broderick and three astronauts – Dave Williams, Ron Garan and Nicole Stott – assisted as Canadian surgical researchers 1,250 miles away sent commands to a robot inside the laboratory.
Responding to those commands, the portable robot sutured a badly damaged vein in the wounded arm of a patient simulator, a lifelike medical teaching aide constructed of rubber and fabrics that mimic human tissue and contain bloodlike fluid.
During the experiment, researchers delayed the robot’s response to Anvari’s [Dr. Mehran Anvari, a Canadian pioneer in tele-robotic-assisted surgery -ed.] commands by two seconds. The lag matched the time it would take communications from Earth to reach an astronaut undergoing medical treatment on the moon.
“It was tough. Your brain has to learn that with a two-second delay, you are trying to predict where the (robot’s) arm will end up being seconds later,” Anvari said.
The Mars lag time would be a more challenging 12 minutes.
From a technophilic perspective, this is wicked cool. However, from an engineering perspective, it seems like for the same cost in time, money and complexity, you could train one flight crew in basic surgical procedures. Of course this is coming from the only non-medical Medgadgeteer on staff.
Link to the story in the Houston Chronicle