Astronauts

Astronaut Jessica Watkins Floats Above the Earth in the Space Station’s Cupola

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins is seen here floating above Earth in the International Space Station’s cupola, which provides a spectacular viewing spot for those who live and work on the space station.

The cupola is a dome-shaped module with six windows that face Earth. It was installed in 2010, and is a favorite spot for astronauts to do some Earth observation and quiet introspection. The small module is designed for the observation of operations outside the station such as robotic activities, the approach of vehicles, and spacewalks.

But the direct, nadir view of Earth through the windows is what astronauts enjoy the most. Those who have the incredible opportunity to see the Earth from space often report the view gives them a sense of awe, unity and clarity. This perspective-altering experience is known as the Overview Effect, from a book by the same name published 1987 by space philosopher Frank White.

Watkins is currently serving as a mission specialist on the ISS, and is part of the SpaceX Crew-4 mission, which launched on April 27, 2022.  Watkins is the first Black woman to serve a long-duration mission on the space station.

The SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts (from left) with Mission Specialist Jessica Watkins, Pilot Robert Hines, Commander Kjell Lindgren, and Mission Specialist Samantha Cristoforetti. Credit: NASA.

“We have reached this milestone, this point in time, and the reason we’re able to arrive at this time is because of the legacy of those who have come before to allow for this moment,” Watkins said in an interview before launch. “Also, recognizing this is a step in the direction of a very exciting future. So to be a part of that is certainly an honor.”

Here are a few other great views of astronauts enjoying the cupola.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson spends time in the International Space Station’s Cupola during a 2017 tour of duty. Credit: NASA
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield spends some quiet time to check out the view of Earth from the cupola of the International Space Station, while serenading his fellow astronauts. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson reflects on the view from the ISS’s Cupola. Credit: Doug Wheelock/NASA
The STS-131 crew somehow organizes themselves on the small space of the cupola 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

See a larger view of our lead image of Jessica Watkins here, via NASA.

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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