SpaceX rocket carrying AI research blasts off for space station

Ignacio Smith
July 4, 2018

The closely held company controlled by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk launched its Falcon 9 rocket and payload from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida about 5:44 a.m. local time.

CIMON is created to support astronauts in performing routine work, for example by displaying procedures or - thanks to its "neural" AI network and its ability to learn - offering solutions to problems. No mutinous takeovers like HAL from the 1968 film classic "2001: A Space Odyssey".

An artificial intelligence-powered robot tasked with assisting astronauts was launched into space for the first time ever Friday to join the crew of the International Space Station.

"With CIMON, crew members can do more than just work through a schematic view of prescribed checklists and procedures; they can also engage with their assistant", Airbus said in its original announcement of the new AI companion. The bot has been trained to understand the voice and face of a German astronaut, Alexander Gerst, who will later decide how the bot does.

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The rocket is carrying cargo to the International Space Station. "But with an artificial intelligence, you have instantly all the knowledge of mankind".

The Dragon ship is slated to reach the ISS on Monday and is mostly filled with science experiments, food, water, and other supplies.

Cimon, pronounced Simon, looks like a basketball and will become the world's first AI-based, flying space robot.

A robot like CIMON with human-like personalities could help mitigate the disorientation astronauts may feel in space, Mr. Schulien said.

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To get Cimon's attention, Gerst will need only to call its name.

The robot will independently move around the ISS and communicate with the crew, prompting and displaying the desired information. It also has an on-screen face that can seemingly change its expression, a feature Airbus hopes will make CIMON seem like a genuine "colleague" to ISS astronauts. The Dragon capsule is loaded with about 5,900 lbs. Dragon will return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of cargo after a one-month stay at the ISS.

The mission, which is part of a $1.6 billion contract between privately owned SpaceX and US space agency NASA, should reach the station on July 2.

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