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After 6-Month Space Station Mission, 2 US and Russian Astronauts Return to Earth

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ASTRONAUT PHOTOS

Sept 07, 2016: Two Russian and American astronaut returned to our planet at Kazakhstan in the wee hours of Wednesday. After completing work for 6 months on the International Space Station.

After spending 534 days in the space across four space stations American astronaut Jeff Williams became the U.S. record-holder for most time spent in orbit. Previously NASA astronaut Scott Kelly holds the record with 520 days in space. The world record is been set by  Russian Gennady Padalka who spent 879 days in space.

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Nasa quoted “Williams, along with Russian astronauts Alexy Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka landed their Russian-made Soyuz capsule in central Kazakhstan just after 7 a.m. local time Wednesday.” About three and a half hours prior to their landing the three men disembarked from the space station.

In a statement, NASA called Williams “instrumental in preparing the station for future arrival of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft.” Nasa quoted that “Williams had performed five space walks during his time at the space station, one of which included the installation of a docking station for the commercial flights.”

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Russian Anatoly Ivanishin took command after Williams left the space station.Ivanishin remained in the space station with American Kate Rubins and Japan’s Takuya Onishi.

“Vast gratitude toward my crewmates, ground teams, supporting friends, and family.” Along with a picture of the Earth’s outer atmosphere, Williams posted on Twitter that “I would certainly miss this view!” (VOA)

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Robot Equipped with Emotion-Sensing Heads to International Space Station

Emotion-sensing Robot Heads to Space Station to Help Astronauts

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Robot
Bret Greenstein, IBM Global Vice President of Watson Internet of Things Offerings, holds a clone of an artificial intelligence bot named CIMON, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. VOA

An intelligent robot equipped with emotion-sensing voice detectors was headed to the International Space Station after launching from Florida on Thursday, becoming the latest artificial intelligence-powered astronaut workmate in orbit.

The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion 2, or CIMON 2, is a spherical droid with microphones, cameras and a slew of software to enable emotion recognition.

The droid was among 5,700 pounds (2,585 kg) of supplies and experiments aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, whose midday launch had been delayed from Wednesday because of high winds.

Create a companion

“The overall goal is to really create a true companion. The relationship between an astronaut and CIMON is really important,” Matthias Biniok, the lead architect for CIMON 2, told Reuters. “It’s trying to understand if the astronaut is sad, is he angry, joyful and so on.”

Based on algorithms built by information technology giant IBM Corp and data from CIMON 1, a nearly identical prototype that launched in 2018, CIMON 2 will be more sociable with crew members. It will test technologies that could prove crucial for future crewed missions in deep space, where long-term isolation and communication lags to Earth pose risks to astronauts’ mental health.

Robot companion
The overall goal of creating this robot is to create a true companion. (Representational Image). Lifetime Stock

While designed to help astronauts conduct scientific experiments, the English-speaking robot is also being trained to help mitigate groupthink — a behavioral phenomenon in which isolated groups of humans can be driven to make irrational decisions.

“Group-thinking is really dangerous,” Biniok said. In times of conflict or disagreement among astronauts, one of CIMON’s most important purposes would be to serve as “an objective outsider that you can talk to if you’re alone, or could actually help let the group collaborate again,” he said.

Inspired by Professor Simon, HAL

Engineers have said CIMON’s concept was inspired by a 1940s science fiction comic series set in space, where a sentient, brain-shaped robot named Professor Simon mentors an astronaut named Captain Future. CIMON 2 also parallels HAL, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” film.

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SpaceX is the first private company to fly to the space station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations. Along with CIMON 2, the cargo aboard its 19th resupply mission to the orbital research lab included 40 live mice that will show scientists how muscles change in the microgravity of space. (VOA)