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AI Robot To Fly Into Space Aboard The Falcon 9 Rocket As A Crew Member

Jun 29, 2018 01:35 AM EDT
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Composite Image of CIMON on the ISS
A robot is headed to the International Space Station to serve as the first ever AI astronaut assistant.
(Photo : DLR | T. Bourry | ESA)

A friendly robot is hitching a ride on the Falcon 9 rocket to join the crew at the International Space Station on Friday, June 29.

The robot, named CIMON for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, will be the world's first crew member with artificial intelligence in the ISS.

Meet CIMON

The groundbreaking robot is a large spherical piece of equipment with a screen featuring a cartoon face on one side. Measuring with a diameter of 12.6 inches (32 cm) and a weight of 11 pounds (5 kg), CIMON can see, hear, speak, understand, and even fly, according to a report from the DLR Space Administration in March 2018.

"It is intended to show to what extent the astronauts' work can be supported in the European Columbus module on the ISS and relieve them, in particular, of routine tasks," Christian Karrasch, CIMON Project Manager at the DLR Space Administration in Bonn, says. "Ideally, the astronauts could use their time better and more effectively. With CIMON, we are entering new territory and operating at the threshold of technological feasibility."

The cartoon face on CIMON makes it easy to approach for the humans aboard the ISS. The robot is able to propel itself using 14 internal fans, so it can move throughout the stations when called upon by the crew.

CIMON can help with science experiments, displaying necessary pictures and videos on its screen. However, the robot is only meant to test the AI companion technology, so interaction with the ISS crew will be limited to a total of three hours.

The data and feedback from CIMON will eventually be the basis of future AI robot designs.

Falcon 9 Mission

CIMON will be flying aboard the Falcon 9 as part as SpaceX's 15th resupply mission to the ISS, which includes over 5,900 pounds of food, water, and new science experiments and technology.

NASA reports that take off is scheduled at no earlier than 5:42 a.m. ET on Friday, June 29. The spacecraft is expected to get to the ISS by Monday, July 2.

True to their pledge of a more efficient and economical way of conquering space, SpaceX is using a refurbished Falcon 9 rocket for the journey along with a refurbished Dragon cargo capsule to hold all the supplies on its way to the ISS.

The Dragon was used on a trip to the station in July 2016, while the Falcon 9 previously flew there in April 2018. In an impressive feat, SpaceX was able to get the rocket ready for another trip in just two and a half months.

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