A ‘fly­ing brain’ is head­ing for the ISS

Air­bus has been work­ing on a clever robotic vir­tual as­sis­tant for the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion

All About Space - - Launch Pad -

The Space Sta­tion is get­ting a new crew mem­ber, but it's not quite what you'd ex­pect. In­stead, the

Crew In­ter­ac­tive Mo­bile Com­pan­ion (CIMON) is a float­ing drone that not only presents a friendly face to hu­man as­tro­nauts, but dis­plays data read­outs wher­ever it may be needed.

Its mak­ers are call­ing it “a kind of fly­ing brain” and it's not too dis­sim­i­lar to the in­tel­li­gent com­pan­ions seen in var­i­ous sci-fi films and TV shows. In fact, it's on the same lines as HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Holly in Red Dwarf. De­vel­oped by Air­bus and IBM and made of 3D-printed plas­tic and metal, it is the size of a medicine ball and it weighs around five kilo­grams.

The drone will use Wat­son ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to help the ISS crew solve prob­lems while en­gag­ing ver­bally with them and flag­ging up tech­ni­cal prob­lems. “In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mis­sion and flight as­sis­tance sys­tem,” said Man­fred Jau­mann, head of mi­cro­grav­ity pay­loads at Air­bus, with a state­ment from the com­pany adding it will be­come a “gen­uine col­league”.

CIMON is cur­rently be­ing tested by ESA astro­naut Alexan­der Gerst who is set to re­turn to the ISS for the Hori­zon's mis­sion be­tween

June and Oc­to­ber. He will take the drone with him and make use of a se­lected range of ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but the medium-term aim is to ex­am­ine the group ef­fects that can de­velop dur­ing long mis­sions, such as to the Moon or Mars.

Air­bus says CIMON will make life eas­ier for as­tro­nauts car­ry­ing out rou­tine tasks

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