Status Report

Transcript of Comments Made by Editor Keith Cowing on CNN’s Space Shuttle Launch Coverage 1 Jul 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
April 8, 2006
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Transcript of Comments Made by Editor Keith Cowing on CNN’s Space Shuttle Launch Coverage 1 Jul 2006

Today at 10:38 a.m. Ron Garan, Nicole Stott, and Tim Broderick joined an elite group of people in this world who have spent 24 hours under the sea in “saturation,”, making them the world’s three newest aquanauts. Ross Hein and Jim Buckley, of course, were already experienced aquanauts, and Dave Williams is now a two-time “aquastronaut”!

Today the crew focused on the first of the Center for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS) experiments, which is an investigation on the Impact of Latency on Human Performance and Brain Activity.

In remote telesurgery, a surgeon controls a multi-armed robot located at the patient’s bedside from a distant location using a telecommunications network. This emerging technology has the potential to provide emergency medical and surgical care to astronauts during space flights, soldiers injured in battle, and patients living in remote regions on earth where there are no physicians.

However, one of the major limitations of remote telesurgery is the time delay – or “latency” that occurs when the video images and signals controlling the robotic arms are transmitted over long distances. Previous research has shown that surgeons can adapt to latencies of 200 – 500 milliseconds, but the time delays that occur when signals are sent via satellite can be well over 1 second, and the time it takes signals to travel from the earth to the moon is approximately 2 seconds. Therefore, we will need to find a way to deal with longer latencies if remote telesurgery is going to be used during space travel.

The CMAS 1 experiment will investigate how longer time delays (up to 2 seconds) affect the astronauts’ ability to perform certain tasks We will use a device called an electroencephalogram (EEG) to record their brain activity so that we can study which areas of the brain are responsible for adapting to latency. This information will allow us to develop strategies that will enhance the brain’s ability to adapt to latency and minimize its negative effects on performance.

During this experiment, the crewmembers will use a laptop computer to perform four different tasks that mimic the movements surgeons make when manipulating a robotic device. They will repeat each task with a varying amount of delay and it will vary from real-time to 2 seconds. While the crewmembers are performing each task, an EEG device will record their brain activity using electrodes held in place by a net worn on their heads. Following the mission, experts in brain activity will study the EEG data in order to determine which areas of the brain are involved in adapting to latency. Hopefully this research will help us to one day deliver telesurgical medical care to the most remote corners of the Earth – and to the Moon!

SpaceRef staff editor.