Looking into the future, what would happen if an astronaut on Mars or a colonist on the Moon needed surgery? Who would do it? It’s not like a surgeon could be dispatched to Mars on an emergent basis. Nor would it be likely one would be part of the small and carefully selected crew. So how can this problem be solved?
Maybe have a marginally trained person perform the needed procedure guided by a surgeon on the ground. Or a robotic device could be employed, while the surgeon sat at console on Earth. This is how most so-called robotic procedures are done now—-the patient is on the table while the surgeon sits at a console several feet away.
The key words here are “several feet away.”
In an Earth-controlled surrogate-surgeon or robotic procedure, the main problem the Mars-exploring patient and the Earth-bound surgeon would face is the time lag for the instructional signals to travel back and forth. This would be a significant and make surgery extremely difficult if not impossible. Depending on where each planet is in its own orbit, the two planets are separated by 34 million to 250 million miles. And the time required for a signal to travel one way varies accordingly—-between 4 and 24 minutes. Meanwhile, incisions are being made, blood if flowing, and the surgeon is twiddling his thumbs waiting to see the results of his most recent action. Not a pretty or effective situation.
So what about a completely self-contained, self-controlled robotic device? One that operated—so to speak—on its own? That would be cool. And research is moving that way.
This concept played a significant role in my second Dub Walker thriller HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL.