SpaceX's 15th Resupply Cargo Mission to ISS Launches With First AI Flying Robot Crew Member

SpaceX's CRS-15 mission brings not only crucial scientific equipment and crew supplies but also sees the introduction of the first autonomous astronaut assistant.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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NASA's commercial cargo ship SpaceX Falcon 9 launched today from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to complete its 15th resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket was carrying over 5,900 pounds of crew and research supplies and one unusual new ISS member, an adorable artificial intelligence (AI) flying robot called CIMON.

First autonomous astronaut assistant

CIMON, an acronym for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, is the "world's first flying, autonomous astronaut assistant featuring artificial intelligence" created by Airbus. The robot was engineered in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center and will serve on board the ISS as a hands-free assistant that will support astronauts in their many varied tasks.

SpaceX's 15th Resupply Cargo Mission to ISS Launches With First AI Flying Robot Crew Member
Source: DLR

"CIMON is globally unique in this form," said in a statement Christian Karrasch, CIMON Project Manager at the DLR Space Administration in Bonn. "We have implemented this experiment in a very short time. 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. Ideally, the astronauts could use their time better and more effectively."

CIMON was trained by technology company IBM using the voice of German European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst. The geophysicist will use his AI companion for a medical experiment and a number of projects involving crystals and a Rubik's cube.

"The aim of the CIMON project is to examine the current capabilities of artificial intelligence in a complex environment such as the International Space Station, in order to provide the best possible support to people in such conditions," said Matthias Biniok, IBM's lead Watson architect in Germany. In addition, the cute robot is also intended to support astronauts with their high-pressure workload in order to decrease their exposure to stress and provide mental health benefits.


"Our studies show that being subjected to microgravity for a certain period can significantly affect the functioning of an astronaut's immune system. Stress is a major factor here," explained CIMON scientific advisor Judith-Irina Buchheim. If the flying assistant can achieve even half of its intended tasks, it will be a worthy addition to any future mission.

For now, we have to wait while it heads to its destination. If all goes well SpaceX Dragon is set to reach the ISS on Monday, July 2 where it will be captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm operated by NASA astronauts Ricky ArnoldDrew Feustel and Serena Auñón-Chancellor.

Research experiments

The mission is a particularly exciting one not only because of the introduction of CIMON but also due to its contribution to several research experiments. The ISS will now be the base for the Chemical Gardens project studying the physics of nanotube growth, the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) investigation on water stress in plants and the Quantifying Cohesive Sediment Dynamics for Advanced Environmental Modeling (BCAT-CS) exploration of forces between particles that cluster together.



Via: NASA Live


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