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A Study of Telerobotic Surgery and Telementoring in Space Missions


Mangai Prabakar, Alejandro Diaz, Daniela Chavez Guevara, Jong-Hoon Kim, Member, IEEE


Abstract— Several nations are actively seeking to achieve human space exploration beyond the Earth’s orbit and the need to improve current surgical treatment during spaceflight is critical. Starting with the concept of telemedicine for space flight in the 1970s, terrestrial telesurgery has advanced over the last 30-40 years to telerobotic surgery and telementoring spanning continents, creating the testing ground for medical care in space missions. Telerobotic surgery has been advantageous for not only providing telepresence to surgeons and closing geographical distances but also for minimally invasive surgeries, which are a necessity in weightlessness. Numerous experiments have been conducted by aeronautical space programs resulting in improved techniques for telesurgery in extreme conditions, such as underwater laboratories and zero-gravity models created by parabolic aircraft flights. There are challenges for telesurgery over astronomical distances in overcoming signal latency, the time lapse between moments when the surgeon moves the controls and the robot response. The dependence on camera images for surgical navigation requires advanced visualization techniques to help human controllers familiarize with extreme operative environments. This study provides an analysis of the current research in achieving improved data transfer from space flights and providing possible solutions to improve the quality of telesurgery.