ISS Opens its Windows on the Sahara Desert, the World, and Beyond

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Last week, Space Shuttle Endeavour delivered the last necessary parts for the International Space Station (ISS)’s new observation deck — complete with a window called the Cupola — the first stunning picture of which we saw yesterday.

Now, ISS engineer Soichi Noguchi brings us — via Twitter — the first earthbound photo from the Cupola window: a sweeping view of the Sahara Desert. “Let there be light! Cupola windows open toward Sahara desert. Priceless!”

Universe Today’s Nancy Atkinson has some more background on the observation deck and the window known as “window seven:”

“As expected, the view through window seven is absolutely spectacular,” ISS commander Jeff Williams said. “When we have the others around it open, it will give us a view of the entire globe. Absolutely incredible.”

The new observation deck will allow astronauts unprecedented views of Earth and space, while providing a new location for robotic operations where astronauts inside the ISS can actually watch directly what they doing with the CanadArm2 on the ISS, instead of completely relying on computer inputs and camera views. The Cupola is attached to the nadir, or Earth–facing port of the new Tranquility node, a $380 million addition to the station that was delivered to the ISS on the current space shuttle mission.

A few more cool, recent pics from Soichi Noguchi:

The “icy Aral sea“:

Sakura-jima, an active volcano in Japan:

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