The next frontier: Robot to help astronaut in space odyssey

SpaceX launch live stream: How to watch the NASA-ISS cargo mission blast off online

Can artificial intelligence make life easier for astronauts on board the International Space Station?

And if you've watched any science fiction movies from the last 50 years, this is where it all starts folks. Its AI brain is courtesy of IBM.

The space station and its six inhabitants were sailing 250 miles above the South Pacific when the Falcon 9 took off.

Also on board are 20 brown female mice, half of them genetically identical from one strain or family, and the other half identical from another family. Alexander Gerst, a German astronaut now aboard the ISS, helped design CIMON's screen prompts and vocal controls.

The spacecraft's occupant also included a robot named Cimon, short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion.

CIMON is capable of nodding in response to questions and will be able to zoom up to astronauts when being called by its name.

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CIMON will use a neural AI network to learn from astronauts.

In a February press release announcing CIMON's arrival, Airbus said that CIMON's emotional intelligence, in addition to its friendly face and voice, will help it operate like a true crew member aboard the station. Their common language will be English, the official language of the space station.

The statement said that CIMON is "tuned to relate to the astronaut, so if the astronaut says I miss my family - which we have [Biniok] saying, CIMON responds with a more compassionate tone and a suggestion on how to help". CIMON smiles when the mood is upbeat, and frowns or cries when things are sad.

For more than 17 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space.

Researchers chose a ball rather than a humanoid face for Cimon because they thought it would be less potentially disturbing or creepy. "It then will deploy its solar arrays and begin a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings to reach the space station", NASA said.

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