The Latest SpaceX Shipment to the ISS Included 'Death Wish' Coffee and an AI Named CIMON

Monday, 02 July 2018 - 12:47PM
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Monday, 02 July 2018 - 12:47PM
The Latest SpaceX Shipment to the ISS Included 'Death Wish' Coffee and an AI Named CIMON
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Image Credit: SpaceX/Public Domain
Astronauts have brought some strange things into space, including $2 bills, a penny-sized chip with art by Andy Warhol, and (most infamously) a corned beef sandwich. All of that seems quaint compared to the recent shipment made to the ISS by SpaceX's most recent Dragon capsule, which included Texas blueberries, ice cream bars, the world's strongest coffee (Death Wish brand), and a spherical white robot named CIMON (short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion).



The total shipment weighed in at roughly 5,900 lbs, with the majority (about 3,874 lbs) consisting of equipment and samples for experiments and ongoing science projects. A good portion of it, however, was dedicated to livening up the astronaut's carefully regimented diets. According to Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA's space station program: "Food's a huge psychological benefit. When you're living in a closed environment, you're basically eating the same menu every 8 or 9 days, and then you repeat. So, having something different is a real treat."

More interesting than the exotic food, however, is CIMON, the so-called 'flying brain' created by Airbus. According to a statement made earlier this year by the company: "CIMON is a personal assistant capable of voice and facial recognition. We want to study the psychological effects of long space missions on crew members and try out suitable countermeasures, especially those that reduce stress. We will place special emphasis on data mining and interactions between humans and AI."

Reading between the lines, it appears that one of CIMON's primary tasks is to keep astronauts from having a breakdown, which is a real danger when things get tense in space—the most recent HI-SEAS simulation, which was intended to investigate how humans will react when confined to a small Martian habitat for long periods of time, ended with a crisis among the test subjects when one of the participants was accidentally electrocuted and the normal fail-safes to get medical help failed.

Hopefully the ISS' ice cream bars and coffee help keep them sane, so CIMON doesn't have to become a slightly lower-tech version of HAL from 2001.




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