The crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) will soon welcome a new member — one that is 3D-printed from metal and plastic and is described by its creators as “a kind of flying brain.”
It goes by the name CIMON, short for “Crew Interactive Mobile Companion.” Built by the aerospace design company Airbus in collaboration with IBM, CIMON houses artificial intelligence (AI) in an autonomous, spherical body that would “float” in the space station’s microgravity environment, with a screen that can display data readouts for astronauts — or present an image of a friendly face — as well as a voice shaped by IBM’s AI technology.
The robot is tasked with supporting the ISS astronauts as a type of assistant, and free-flying CIMON would be the first AI-based mission on the ISS, Airbus representatives said in a statement.
CIMON will only have limited features in its initial voyage into space, which could come as early as next month. Its basic testing will consist of optimizing what are known as GNC algorithms (guidance, navigation and control). But researchers have hopes that it, or some equivalent, would be able to accompany astronauts on longer journeys into space in the future.