SpaceX has sent the first robot with artificial intelligence – nicknamed the “flying brain” – to the International Space Station.
Genetically identical mice for research purposes and super-strength coffee for the crew were also blasted off, packed into a Dragon capsule.
AI robot Cimon, pronounced Simon, has been trained to help German astronaut Alexander Gerst with experiments and will remain indefinitely on the orbiting lab.
The Dragon will also deliver 20 brown female mice, half of them genetically identical from one strain of family, and the other half from another, so they can later be compared with their twins on the ground.
Researchers at Northwestern University did the same with Scott and Mark Kelly, NASA’s former identical twin astronauts, in 2016.
Scott Kelly’s 340 days aboard the ISS allowed NASA to study the long-term effects of space travel using a comparison between his development and that of his brother Mark on Earth.
He reportedly grew by 1.5 inches while on the ISS, and shrunk back to normal within two days once he was back on Earth.
Astronauts in space typically grow taller because the spine has a chance to stretch with less pressure from gravity.
Sixty packets of Death Wish Coffee, dubbed the world’s strongest coffee, have also been sent up for astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor, a coffee lover.
A new, spare hand for the station’s robotic arm, an experiment to measure plant stress in space and a study of a new cancer treatment also formed part of the cargo.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the unmanned cargo from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Friday toward the ISS on a delivery mission for NASA, and is expected to reach its destination on Monday.
The lift-off also marked SpaceX’s fastest booster/cargo turnaround.
The same first-stage booster launched the planet-hunting Tess satellite in April. The capsule visited the ISS in July 2016.