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Expedition 24′s Tracy Caldwell Dyson gazes out of the cupola. Credit: NASA
There’s a panoramic window on the International Space Station named after the observation decks that old-time train cabooses had.
The Cupola, as it’s known, includes six side windows and a big one in the center. An astronaut floating nearby can see 1,000 km of Earth below him or her. It’s the ultimate spot to keep an eye on a hurricane, or provide guidance to a crewmate wrestling the robotic Canadarm2 towards an incoming spacecraft.
Hard to believe it’s been three years since the astronauts on STS-130 installed it in February 2010. Below, check out the best of astronaut photography of or from the Cupola since that time.
From the outside, the cupola looks like a flying saucer. That’s Douglas Wheelock (Expedition 25) inside the window. Credit: NASA
A green tint from an aurora is seen out the Cupola over the southern Indian Ocean. Credit: NASA
Canadarm2 makes some moves towards Japan’s robotic H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3) during Expedition 32. Credit: NASA
The Cupola provides a portal to 215 million years in the past: The Manicouagan impact crater in northern Québec shows up nearly in the center of the main Cupola window. Credit: NASA
The STS-131 crew somehow organizes themselves on the small window in microgravity. Pictured are Commander Alan Poindexter, Pilot James P. Dutton Jr. and Mission Specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Rick Mastracchio, Naoko Yamazaki, Clayton Anderson and Stephanie Wilson. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Ron Garan looking down at a night view of Australia from the International Space Station’s cupola..
An Expedition 27 crewmember captured this cyclone over the north Pacific. Told you it’s a good view. Credit: NASA
The end effector — or grappler — at the end of the Space Station’s Canadarm 2 robotic arm is visible out the main window of the Cupola, with a view of our beautiful blue planet below. Credit: NASA.
STS-130′s Nicholas Patrick casually hanging out beneath the cupola after helping install it. Credit: NASA
There have also been some stunning filmed timelapses from the Cupola, such as this one:
Elizabeth Howell (M.Sc. Space Studies '12) is an award-winning freelance space journalist living in Ottawa, Canada. She reported on three shuttle launches, including the first launch "tweetup" during STS-129. Besides Universe Today, she regularly writes for SPACE.com, the Space Exploration Network and All About Space, among other publications. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.