NASA's Robonaut studying to become space doctor

Credit: NASA

When the day comes for humanity to settle the Moon and Mars, things are going to be tough. Simply attempting to grow plants or maintain a breathable atmosphere could swiftly become a life-threatening exercise. In an ideal scenario, the colony will be staffed by a doctor who can cure what ails you in a jiffy. Then again, living in isolation across the vast reaches of space won't likely ever be what you'd call "ideal."

That's why NASA has started putting its Robonaut through a version of med school. In the event of a medical emergency that the human members of the crew cannot tend to themselves, Robonaut will pop into what basically amounts to a robotic version of Star Trek Voyager's EMH (for Emergency Medical Hologram). The idea is that Robonaut would be capable of completing basic procedures on its own, with the option of an Earth-based doctor being called in to take Robonaut's reigns via telepresence for the more advanced stuff.

Med school, even for a robot, is a lengthy process. There's no Matrix-like program out there that simply drops into Robonaut's memory memory banks allowing it to blurt out "I know dentistry" and the like. That being said, one of Robonaut's instructors, Dr. Zsolt Garami, M.D. thinks the robot is coming along quite nicely. Maybe, just maybe, by the time humanity is ready to set up permanent shop on Mars, Robonaut will be there to lend a helping hand, both medically and otherwise.


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