A small robot equipped with AI has been sent to the International Space Station, the first-ever AI-equipped machine to be flown into space. Designed to be an astronaut assistant, it is called ‘CIMON’ short for “Crew Interactive Mobile Companion”. Developed by the European aerospace company Airbus on behalf of the German Space Agency, the robot’s AI is IBM’s Watson system. CIMON can converse with people, and it also knows who it is talking to with facial-recognition software. ‘CIMON’ also has a face of its own — a simple cartoon one. This astronaut assistant is also mobile in space, as once aboard the ISS CIMON will be able to fly around by sucking in air and expelling it through special tubes. The objective of sending ‘CIMON’ to the ISS is to conduct a technology demonstration designed to show how humans and machines can interact and collaborate in a space environment. It will be a while before intelligent robots are ready to do any really heavy-lifting in space, but these initial steps are pointing in the right direction.