A robotic astronaut named CIMON is on its way to the ISS

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The closely held company controlled by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk launched its Falcon 9 rocket and payload from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida about 5:44 a.m. local time. Cimon is programmed to relate to astronauts.

Though CIMON is a far cry from the HAL 9000 supercomputer in the classic sci-fi book and movie "2001: A Space Odyssey", its capabilities are nonetheless impressive.

The unmanned rocket sent fresh space supplies for the International Space Station, as well as the first robot with artificial intelligence.

So while CIMON was made to help Gerst carry out research, it's also the beginning of the study of human-machine conversational AI interaction in space.

Meanwhile, NASA said the CIMON pilot "aims to provide first insights into the effects of crew support from an artificial intelligence in terms of efficiency and acceptance during long-term missions in space".

The Dragon capsule portion of the rocket is expected to dock with the space station on Monday.

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The machine's "brain" is powered by a version of IBM Watson - the software that famously defeated "Jeopardy!" champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in 2011 to win $US1 million. Jessica Jensen, director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX did say engineers are examining a potential issue with a thermal protection panel on the cargo capsule, which is already mounted on a Falcon 9 booster. Their common language will be English, the official language of the space station.

CIMON will work with three times Gerst on three tasks during the mission, according to Airbus, where the robot will give verbal instructions.

It will hover at the eye level of astronaut and its front camera can easily detect if the person it is facing is Alexander, or someone else. Complete with facial recognition, CIMON will help astronauts perform various tasks and aid them in working through problems when needed.

"Looking forward to some really exciting weeks ahead as we unload the science and get started on some great experiments,"Station astronaut Ricky Arnold reported to Mission Control after using a robotic arm to grab the Dragon".

CIMON was built in a joint partnership between IBM and Airbus, and the ESA will be the ones to test it out, but it could be a sign of even greater things to come.

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