After a Tuesday spacewalk, the third and final one, by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick, the space shuttle STS-130 astronauts and the ISS Expedition 22 crewmembers were able to see an 'absolutely spectacular' view of Earth from the 80-centimeter (31-inch) diameter window, the top window on the Cupola (which is surrounded by the other six).
The European Space Agency (ESA)/Italian-built Cupola is an Earth-facing observation deck that contains seven windows that provide a 360-degree view of outer space.
The windows are called Windows on the World, Windows on the Universe, and the Largest Space Window. Whatever they are called, they provide spectacular views of Earth and outer space from the International Space Station.
The seven-windowed Cupola is positioned on the underside of the newly installed Tranquility module (Node 3).
Appropriate for the unique activities of the day, the space shuttle astronauts were awakened to the music of Jimmy Buffett, specifically his song 'Window On The World."
A picture of the Cupola, as it sits at the Kennedy Space Center before being send to space, is found on the following NASA webpage 'Windows on the Universe.'
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The Cupola's windows are made of fused silica and Borosilicate Glass. Its shutters are Kevlar/Nextel sheets. Other specifications are found on the ESA webpage 'Cupola.'
From the Associated Press article 'Astronauts unveil phenomenal new window on world,' check out six pictures taken from and of the new windows.
Upon the unveiling of the Cupola's windows, Jeffrey Williams, commander of the ISS Expedition 22 crew, stated, 'This has to be the largest window onboard and when we have the others around it open it will give us a view of the entire globe. Absolutely incredible." [Space.com (2-17-2010)]: 'Astronauts Bask in Spectacular Views From New Space Windows']
One of the first pictures of the seven-piece window complex on the Cupola came from Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who sent an image to his Twitter page (Astro_Soichi).
It showed the Sahara in northern Africa, from their position about 355 kilometers (220 miles) above the large desert.
See the picture at Twitter's Astro_Soichi webpage 'Let there be light! Cupola windows open toward Sahara desert. Priceless!'
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The STS-130 crew is now scheduled to depart the International Space Station with their space shuttle Endeavour on late Friday (February 19, 2010).
They will land back at the Kennedy Space Center two days later, on Sunday night.
The next flight of the space shuttle program is NASA mission STS-131, which has been delayed to April 5, 2010, for its launch from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
The preparation work to ready the space shuttle Discovery and its cargo and payload has been delayed at KSC to unusually cold weather in central Florida.
Only four more flights of the space shuttle program are left.