SpaceX will send up nearly 6,000 pounds of supplies on its 15th cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The cargo includes shipments of food and water for the six astronauts living on the ISS, as well as two sets of genetically identical female mice. A robot with true artificial intelligence is also part of SpaceX’s latest supply delivery.
The German robot is named CIMON for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion. Airbus developed CIMON for Germany’s national space agency. Its AI brain is courtesy of IBM and its system is updated via IBM’s Cloud. The entire project came in under $5.8 million.
German Space Agency physicist Christian Karrasch, the project manager, said that German astronaut Alexander Gerst will be CIMON’s operator during three one-hour sessions. Their common language will be English, the official language of the space station.
The robot is meant to help with research procedures when asked. CIMON already has Gerst’s face and voice imprinted in its memory and is knowledgeable about Gerst’s science experiments. Next year, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano will be CIMON’s operator.
CIMON looks like a white ball with a small screen on the sphere that serves as its face. The ball has no sharp edges that could damage space station equipment or poke astronauts. The robot is meant for additional brainpower, so it doesn’t have legs or arms. Fourteen internal fans propel the robot by sucking in air and expelling it to move in a particular direction.
NASA’s humanoid Robonaut returned aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule in May. The robot lacked AI, but had hands and feet designed for grabbing and climbing. It was designed to be able to go outside of the spacecraft to perform mundane tasks, but was plagued by wiring trouble during its time on ISS. It is now being repair and is expected to return to the space station in the near future.