HOUSTON (CBS Tampa) – It’s not exactly the holographic doctor from Star Trek, but NASA is working on the next best thing… a humanoid robot that can handle medical emergencies in space.

There’s already one Robonaut (its name is R2) on board the International Space Station.

It’s been a crew member since 2011.

Dr. Zsolt Garami of Houston Methodist Research Institute is training it to conduct medical procedures with the guidance of Earth-bound physicians.

The human doctor remains on the ground, and guides R2 by watching through a camera in its head.

The goal is to lighten the load for astronauts, who are required to have medical training before blasting off. A robot doctor would be one less thing for them to forget.

NASA released a video showing an R2 duplicate performing an ultrasound scan on a mannequin. It also used a syringe to perform mock injections.
“Humans at the controls are able to perform the task correctly and efficiently by using R2’s dexterity to apply the appropriate level of force and can track their progress using R2’s vision system,” says Dr. Garami.
And the robot is able to learn, he says. “This demonstration of robotic capabilities could one day result in the ability for physicians to conduct complex medical procedures on humans in remote locations, whether on the Earth’s surface or even in low Earth orbit.”
The next generation of medical robots, the R5, nicknamed Valkyrie, was recently introduced.
NASA hopes to use it on a manned mission to Mars.

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