New picture window for the space station

 Headlines Y2009 Images Cupola Tranquility-525X393

The International Space Station will get a new picture window early next year. Called the "Cupola," the new observation platform will be a control point for the space station's robotic arm. It will also serve as the ultimate chill-out room. From NASA:

"Crews tell us that Earth gazing is important to them," says Julie Robinson, the ISS Program Scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "The astronauts work hard up there and are away from their families for a long time. Observing the Earth and the stars helps relax and inspire them."

Until now, space station astronauts have been confined to looking out small portholes or at best the 20-inch window in the US Destiny Laboratory. The Cupola will dramatically expand their view.

"The Cupola's 80-cm diameter circular top window is the largest window ever built for space," says Robinson. "Rather than peering through a little porthole, the Cupola will allow a stunning look at the cosmos and unprecedented panoramic views of Earth. Astronauts will share these views with the world through photographs taken through the windows and posted online."

Space Station Room With a View