Science

SpaceX delivers AI robot, ice cream, mice to space station

A SpaceX capsule has arrived at the International Space Station, carrying supplies for astronauts, including berries, ice cream, super-caffeinated coffee, a robot and mice.

Cargo includes Germany Space Agency robot called Cimon, pronounced Simon, to assist in science experiments

The Dragon space capsule moves into position before attaching to the International Space Station. (NASA TV)

The International Space Station on Monday got its first robot with artificial intelligence, along with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.

SpaceX's capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec.

The nearly 2,700-kilogram delivery includes the round robot Cimon (pronounced Simon). Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments. Cimon's brain will constantly be updated by IBM so its intelligence — and role — keep growing.

Peter Altmaier, left, Germany's minister for economy and energy, shows off Cimon during a recent computer fair in Hanover, Germany. It's the first robot with artificial intelligence for the crew of the International Space Station. (Focke Strangmann/EPA-EFE)

There are also genetically identical mice for a study of gut bacteria, and super-caffeinated coffee aboard the Dragon to go with the fresh blueberries and ice cream.

"Looking forward to some really exciting weeks ahead as we unload the science and get started on some great experiments," Arnold told Mission Control minutes after snaring the Dragon.

When informed it was the 30th cargo ship to be captured by the station's robot arm, Arnold said, "It's hard to believe ... how far we've come. It's quite an accomplishment."

Most of those visiting vessels have been provided by private U.S. companies hired by NASA to keep the space station well stocked.

Mission Control said it was fitting that the latest capture occurred over Quebec; the station's robot arm is Canada's contribution.

Besides Gerst, the 400-kilometre-high lab is home to three Americans and two Russians.

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