Why do astronauts on the International Space Station need a robot, ice cream and mice?

A SpaceX cargo capsule approaches the International Space Station (NASA TV via AP) Credit: AP/Press Association Images

The International Space Station has received its first robot with artificial intelligence, along with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.

SpaceX’s capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

ISS astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec, Canada.

The nearly 6,000lb delivery includes the round robot Cimon, pronounced Simon.

Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments.

Cimon’s brain will constantly be updated by IBM so its intelligence — and role — keep growing.

There were also genetically identical mice for a study of gut bacteria, and super-caffeinated coffee aboard the Dragon to go with the fresh blueberries and ice cream.

“Looking forward to some really exciting weeks ahead as we unload the science and get started on some great experiments,” Mr Arnold told Mission Control minutes after snaring the Dragon.

Informed it was the 30th cargo ship captured by the station’s robot arm, he added: “It’s hard to believe … how far we’ve come. It’s quite an accomplishment.”

Most of the visiting vessels have been provided by private US companies hired by Nasa to keep the space station well stocked.

Mission Control said it was fitting that the latest capture occurred over Quebec – the station’s robot arm is Canada’s contribution.

Besides Mr Gerst, the 250 mile-high lab is home to three Americans and two Russians.