SpaceX, NASA launches Falcon 9 to send supplies, research to ISS

Image 1 of 2

The Falcon Nine rocket carrying 6000 pounds of gear – and a new crew member of sorts, named CIMON – launched up to the International Space Station this morning. The most dramatic part was when the booster separated and fell back to earth leaving behind a beautiful-looking cloud.

“I thought it was an amazing viewpoint,” said Kathy Buckles, who watched the launch, “it was so awesome to be here early in the morning and get to hear it and feel the energy.”

CIMON, however, is what made this payload unique. CIMON stands for "crew interactive mobile companion." He's a robotic sphere that's going to float around the station with the astronauts. He has a screen that shows his face, and a camera to recognize the crewmembers and actually talk with them, and answer questions.

The engineers say CIMON is a first step toward robots designed to keep the astronauts company on longer missions, like a voyage to Mars.

“You can just do small talk, just talk to it, basically,” said one engineer, “in case it's just disagreeing with someone, it can shake its head quite fast, so we really try to get close to the human movements to the human face.”

Hundreds of space fans showed up to see him off to the final frontier. “When can you go any higher, faster, or farther than going into space?” asked Nicholas Gaug, a young space enthusiast, “It's the ultimate adventure.”

CIMON and the rest of the cargo are scheduled to meet up with the ISS by Monday morning.