AI robot crew member CIMON to join astronauts on space station

AI robot crew member CIMON to join astronauts on space station

The spacecraft will be blasting off from Complex 40 launch pad at 5:42 a.m. EDT (09:42 GMT), atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched NASA's TESS planet-hunting satellite a mere two months ago. No mutinous takeovers like HAL from the 1968 film classic "2001: A Space Odyssey".

On board was a ball-shaped artificial intelligence robot nicknamed the "flying brain", which is created to fly around the International Space Station and interact with a German astronaut. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the round, 3D-printed German Space Agency robot will assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments.

The Dragon's occupants included a free-floating robot resembling a soccer ball sliced in half named CIMON (pronounced "Simon,") short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion.

The spacecraft is taking around 2,600 kilograms of supplies to the worldwide space station; these include an AI robot named Cimon, cellular biology equipment for cancer therapy, a chemical garden, and other earth science objects.

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The shipment - packed into a Dragon capsule that is also recycled - should reach the station on Monday. CIMON is already familiar with Gerst's face and voice, so the bot will work best with him, at least initially. That means CIMON can interpret data, respond to commands, solve problems, and generally be a useful little robot without any internet connection - a tricky problem in space.

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CIMON is equipped with a microphone on back, an infrared camera on the front, two batteries, and perhaps most importantly, an "offline" button.

"What we're trying to do with CIMON is to increase the efficiency of the astronaut", Matthias Biniok, an IBM engineer one of the the robots's lead architects, told Reuters. He said "CIMON knows them all" - so astronauts shouldn't have to worry as much about missing a step.

Although it speaks English, CIMON is tasked to specifically help Gerst during its first stay on the ISS, but it will be able to understand and obey the other astronauts.

CIMON was built in a joint partnership between IBM and Airbus, and the ESA will be the ones to test it out, but it could be a sign of even greater things to come.

CIMON will return to Earth on December 13.

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