AI Astronaut Joins Crew at International Space Station


                                                                                                 Airbus building in Germany, the company whose behind CIMON, the artificial intelligence astronaut / Photo by Wikimedia Commons


A new astronaut has been sent into space and is on its way to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX. However, the new crew member is an artificial intelligence system called CIMON or Crew Interactive Mobile Companion.

CIMON has been designed by the aeronautics company Airbus and computer manufacturing company IBM to assist the astronauts of the European Space Agency. The AI will serve as an intelligent assistant to help the crew members in their daily tasks aboard the ISS. Its physical body has a size of a medicine ball with a weight of about 11 pounds, while its “mental aspect” is equipped with a neural network power similar to IBM Watson, an AI platform business. The parts used to make the body of CIMON is made of plastic and metal, produced via 3D printing method.

“We are the first company in Europe to carry a free flyer, a kind of flying brain, to the ISS and to develop artificial intelligence for the crew on board the 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,” stated Manfred Jaumann, head of Microgravity Payloads at Airbus.

CIMON is still in continuous development and will be overseen by the Space Administration at the German Aerospace Center. The AI has learning, understanding, and reasoning capabilities to converse with crew members. The assistance it can provide includes providing suggestions to resolve problems, showing methods to help routine tasks of crew members, and helping out with technical issues. In theory, the AI should be able to increase efficiency, improve security, and raise mission success of the crew.

The ISS tasks for CIMON is a test by Alexander Gerst, an astronaut at the European Space Agency, between June and October 2018.