Space Flights

SpaceX launches robotic astronaut CIMON to space

SpaceX launched the next shipment to the International Space Station on board a Falcon 9 rocket on Friday, June 29, 2018, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Dragon supply capsule is expected to reach the ISS at around 7 a.m. ET on Monday, July 2.

The shipment includes nearly three tons of research and resupply materials including science experiments, food, water, and other supplies. One more interesting thing that is on its way to the ISS is a flying, talking, interactive robotic head. No other AI-equipped machine has ever flown to space before.

The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, or CIMON, is a small artificial intelligent robot developed by the European aero company Airbus and IBM and funded by the German space agency DLR. It is roughly the size of a basketball with a screen featuring a friendly cartoon face. It uses Watson AI technology from the IBM cloud and weighs around 11 pounds (5 kg).

CIMON is notably the first artificial intelligence based mission and flight assistance system to head to the ISS. It will assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst in conducting experiments on the International Space Station. The robot is equipped with microphones and cameras that help it recognize Gerst’s voice and his face.

Gerst, who arrived at the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft earlier this month, will test the AI-based assistant during the European Space Agency’s Horizons mission on the ISS between June and October 2018.

He will work with CIMON three times on three tasks during the mission. CIMON will verbally give step-by-step instructions to Gerst. They will perform some sort of experiment with crystals, work together to solve the Rubik’s cube and perform a complex medical experiment using CIMON as an intelligent flying camera. The work will take a total of 3 hours.

CIMON is scheduled to return back to Earth on 13 December 2018.

About the author

Megha Kedia

Megha Kedia

Megha is a seasoned reporter with over six years of experience covering news in technology, science and related fields. At The Space News, Megha covers space research & technology news.

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