The world’s first surgery in zero-gravity was performed on Wednesday aboard a modified Airbus A300 that simulated gravity-free conditions. Strapped to the sides of the plane, the surgeons used instruments fitted with magnets that attached them to the metal operating table while they removed a tumour from the patient’s arm. Why perform surgery in zero-gravity, especially if it is such a bother? One reason is that if we are serious about our plans for manned missions to Mars and to the outer solar system, we might as well start practising now.
The new research may also find great terrestrial significance in the nearer term, doubling as lifesavers in emergencies like earthquakes by allowing doctors to work beneath rubble. Besides, it could help the development of tools for tele-surgery or remote-controlled distance surgery.
Already, surgeons use robots to remove cancerous prostates, repair faulty heart valves and other procedures, even if they have to remain at a console near the patient. One day, remote control technology may let surgeons operate on patients thousands of miles away in another country, or on astronauts in outer space.