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Medtronic’s Micra Pacemaker Aces Space Test
Photo courtesy of NASA

Medtronic’s Micra Pacemaker Aces Space Test

The tiny pacemaker was still in working condition after experiencing the turbulence of a rocket launch and the intense pressure of leaving Earth’s atmosphere.

When Medtronic’s pill-sized pacemaker, the Micra TPS, was shot out of the Earth’s atmosphere and into the harsh elements of space last month, neither the device’s creators nor Shelbi Klingsporn, the 17-year-old student who proposed the experiment, were sure it would survive the trip.
 
“Personally I don’t think it’s going to come back and operate or function like we want,” said Klingsporn during the June 22 launch, which was orchestrated by NASA and a private education program called Cubes in Space.
 
Despite being subjected to more than 20 times the force of gravity, radiation from Earth’s sub-orbit, vibrations “worse than a paint shaker” and temperatures around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, Medtronic’s Micra pacemaker was fully operational upon its return. All three major components of the device—its battery, circuit and antennae—were working as intended.
 
In fact, according to Wade Demmer, a senior program manager at Medtronic who spent eight years working on the Micra device, the “Micra interpreted the shaking as exercise and increased its pacing, which is what it’s supposed to do. That means the accelerometer inside the device is also working.”
 
Although Micra passed the space test, Medtronic believes more testing would need to be done before astronauts fitted with the pacemaker can travel safely among the stars.
 
“The test doesn’t mean that anyone with a pacemaker can go into space,” Demmer noted. “But the idea that someone with a medical device might someday be able to travel into space isn’t as far-fetched today as it was yesterday.”