A SpaceX shipment arrived at the International Space Station on Monday, bearing berries and ice cream, mice and the first orbiting robot with artificial intelligence.
The Dragon capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral. Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon, as the spacecraft soared above Canada’s Quebec.
The nearly 6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) delivery includes genetically identical mice for a study of gut bacteria, and the round robot Cimon (pronounced Simon). Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the Germany 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.
There’s also 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 told it was the 30th cargo ship to be captured by the station’s robot arm, Arnold noted, “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 noted it was especially fitting that the 30th capture occurred over Quebec; the station’s robot arm is Canada’s contribution.
Besides Gerst, the 250-mile-high (400-kilometer-high) lab is home to three Americans and two Russians.