With the government shutdown in the rearview mirror, the doors at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum are open once again. Those who head to the museum this weekend may be greeted by a somewhat unusual sight — a human-like "bionic man" constructed entirely of synthetic body parts.
The 6-foot-tall, high-tech cyborg sports prosthetic limbs on a skeletal frame and implantable synthetic organs — including a working circulatory system and FDA-approved artificial heart.
The Bionic Man is on display at the Air and Space Museum through the Fall and is also the subject of a new documentary called "The Incredible Bionic Man" airing on the Smithsonian Channel this Sunday at 9:00 p.m.
With a million sensors, 200 processors, 70 circuit boards and 26 individual motors, the Bionic Man is a showcase — albeit a slightly creepy one — for the most advanced developments in biotechnology. The SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart, for instance, pumps blood through fully-functioning veins and arteries.
"Many of these (organs) are still prototypes," says the show’s narrator, Dr. Bertholt Meyer. "The hope is that one day they’ll solve the worldwide shortage of donor organs, but the (SynCardia) Artificial Heart is already saving lives."
The Bionic Man documentary focuses on the people most affected by this new technology. The cyborg sports the same ankles designed and worn by Hugh Herr, Director of Biomechatronics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, who lost his legs as a teenager.
"Technology has this extraordinary capacity to heal, to rehabilitate and even to extend human capability beyond what nature intended," Herr says in the program.
The Bionic Man will be on display through mid-December.