ISS Cupola: The Window to the World
The Cupola is an ESA-built observatory module of the International Space Station (ISS). Its seven windows are used to conduct experiments, dockings and observations of Earth. It was launched aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-130 on 8 February 2010 and attached to the Tranquility (Node 3) module. The Cupola’s 80 cm (31 in) window is the largest ever used in space.
Its name derives from the Italian word cupola, which means “dome”. It is extremely important to the ISS astronauts, as previously they have been confined to looking out of small portholes or at best the 20-inch (50 cm) window in the US Destiny laboratory.
Overall height: 1.5-metre (4.9 ft)
Maximum diameter: 2.95-metre (9.68 ft)
Launch mass: 1,805-kilogram (3,979 lb)
On Orbit mass: 1,880-kilogram (4,145 lb)
Dome: Forged Al 2219-T851
Skirt: Al 2219-T851
Windows: Fused silica and borosilicate glass
MDPS shutters: DuPont Kevlar/3M Nextel sheets
Electrical power: Node 120 V Interface
Top window: 80-centimetre (31 in) diameter
Thermal control: goldised Kapton multi-layer insulation blanket
Below you will find a gallery of NASA photos from the Cupola. It’s offers the ultimate view of our beautiful planet and is one that only a select few have had the privilege of witnessing.
Inside the Cupola, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, an Expedition 36 flight engineer, uses a 400mm lens on a digital still camera to photograph a target of opportunity on Earth some 250 miles below him and the International Space Station. Cassidy has been aboard the orbital outpost since late March and will continue his stay into September.
One of the Expedition 31 crew members working in the Cupola aboard the International Space Station, flying about 240 miles above Earth, recorded this frame featuring a non-tropical cyclone located over northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Lake Manitoba (lower center) and Lake Winnipeg (lower right) are visible. The structure on the upper right is part of the Japanese Experiment Module’s Exposed Facility (JEF). The hardware at top includes part of the port truss structure (solar arrays and radiators, and part of one of the ExPRESS Logistics Carriers).
Backdropped by the blackness of space, NASA astronaut Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer, is pictured in a window of the Cupola of the International Space Station.
This unusual image was photographed through the Cupola on the International Space Station by one of the Expedition 30 crew members. The lake just above the bracket-mounted camera at center is Egirdir Golu in Turkey, located at 38.05 degrees north latitude and 30.89 degrees east longitude. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is docked to the station at lower right and part of the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) can be seen just above it. The photo was taken on Dec. 29, 2011.
An Expedition 26 crew member used a fish-eye lens attached to an electronic still camera to capture this image of the Cupola of the International Space Station.
Inside the Cupola, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, an Expedition 36 flight engineer, eyeballs a point on Earth some 250 miles below him and the International Space Station before pinpointing a specific photo target of opportunity. He holds a digital still camera, equipped with a 400mm lens. Cassidy has been aboard the orbital outpost since March and will continue his stay into September.
An Expedition 31 crew member aboard the International Space Station, flying approximately 240 miles above Earth, recorded a series of images of the current wild fires in the west and southwestern United States. For this particular image, taken from the station’s Cupola, he used a 16mm lens, which gives this view a “fisheye” affect. The fires give rise to thick smoke plumes on the southernmost extremity of the Wyoming Range, which occupies the bottom left portion of the image. Three helicopters and more than 100 personnel are fighting the fire, which is being managed by the Bridger–Teton National Forest. Part of a docked Russian Soyuz spacecraft and the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) are at lower right.
NASA astronaut Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer, views a point on Earth through one of the windows in the Cupola of the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock, Expedition 25 commander, uses a still camera to photograph the topography of a point on Earth from a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station.
A fish-eye lens attached to an electronic still camera was used to capture this image of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, in the Cupola of the International Space Station.
A low pressure system in the eastern North Pacific Ocean is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 27 crew member in the Cupola of the International Space Station. This vigorous low pressure system has started to occlude—a process associated with separation of warm air from the cyclone’s center at the Earth’s surface. This view shows the arc of strong convection beyond the center of the low pressure, formed as the low occludes when the cold front overtakes the warm front. This occurs around more mature low pressure areas, later in the process of the system’s life-cycle.
Russian cosmonaut Dmitri Kondratyev (left), Expedition 27 commander; and Italian Space Agency/European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli in the Cupola, use still cameras to photograph the topography of points on Earth. Picture taken by 3rd crew member, Cady Coleman. From left to right outside the cupola Progress M-09M, Soyuz TMA-20, the Leonardo module and Kounotori 2.
This is a composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, from approximately 240 miles above Earth. Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit relayed some information about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image.
To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.” A total of 46 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera in the Cupola were combined to create this composite. Other locations on the orbital outpost were used by the crew to mount cameras to achieve other composites.
Self portrait of Tracy Caldwell Dyson in the Cupola module of the International Space Station observing the Earth below during Expedition 24.
This unique photographic angle, featuring the International Space Station’s Cupola and crew activity inside it, other hardware belonging to the station, city lights on Earth and airglow was captured by one of the Expedition 28 crew members. The major urban area on the coast is Brisbane, Australia. The station was passing over an area southwest of Canberra.
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