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SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Undocks from International Space Station

The Dragon is the first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

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In this photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured about 20 meters (66 feet) away from the International Space Station’s Harmony module, March 3, 2019. It left Friday to splash down in the Atlantic. VOA

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has undocked from the International Space Station.

The Dragon pulled away from the station early Friday, and an Atlantic Ocean splashdown is expected Friday morning.

The Dragon brought supplies and equipment to the space station where it stayed five days as astronauts conducted tests and inspected the Dragon’s cabin.

The crew capsule did not have any humans aboard, just a test dummy named Ripley, a reference to the lead character in the “Alien” movies. Ripley was riddled with sensors to monitor how flight in the capsule would feel for humans.

The Dragon is the first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

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The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has undocked from the International Space Station. Pixabay

The U.S. relies on Russia to launch astronauts to the space station, at a cost of about $80 million per ticket.

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NASA has awarded millions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to design and operate a capsule to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil beginning some time this year.

It is not immediately clear if that goal will be reached.

SpaceX is entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company. Musk is also the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla. (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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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.

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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)