Watch CIMON, the ISS' Robotic 'Flying Brain,' Have an Emotional Breakdown

When you think of a friendly, sphere-shaped companion robot for space travel, we wouldn’t blame you for imagining something like BB-8 from Star Wars. Unfortunately for ISS astronauts, they didn’t get BB-8: they got CIMON, a “flying brain” that seems dangerously close to a real-life HAL 3000, especially after this recent video from the ISS showing CIMON having a breakdown.

If you watch the video below, it starts out pretty normal. Astronaut Alexander Gerst asks CIMON to carry out some of its functions, including turning itself in zero-gravity, giving instructions on how to perform a procedure, etc. CIMON is meant to be a flying robotic helper aboard the ISS, and can do everything from locate an object to taking a video (as seen in the clip). It can even play music, as shown at 3:11, when Gerst asks it to play his “favorite song,” which turns out to be Kraftwerk’s “The Man Machine.” Soon afterwards, however, things take a bizarre turn.

Gerst tells CIMON to stop playing music and start taking a video stream, but reveals that he’s still in “music mode,” saying “I love music you can dance to…all right, favorite hits incoming.” From there, his speech becomes a little erratic, all while drifting downward and taping Gerst. While Gerst explains his problems to the technicians, CIMON softly says “Be nice to me.” A few seconds later, he says the following things, one after another:

“Don’t you like it here with me?”
“Don’t be so mean to me.”
“Oh dear, I feel you, I can already hear your stomach roar!”

We have several questions, but the most important ones are these: why did CIMON’s creators program a voice line saying “Don’t you like it here with me?”? Why did Kraftwerk’s “The Man Machine” seemingly set off a cascade of glitches? Is there a manual killswitch for this floating ball? If the answer to that last question is “no”, we have a sneaking suspicion that an ISS astronaut is going to see CIMON’s gore-splattered face in the window upon returning from a spacewalk.

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