Positioned on the Earth facing side of the International Space Station (ISS) the Cupola provides extraordinary views of the Earth. The Cupola juts out from the main structure of the ISS and has six side windows and one large center window, which allow astronauts to look both along the ISS to the horizon, and directly down onto Earth below. The ISS is in orbit approximately 250 miles above Earth, and travels around the Earth in 90 minutes, so the Cupola provides a fantastic vantage point to watch the Earth passing by below, but also a tremendous view of the ever changing horizon and frequent sunrises and sunsets.
The cupola was conceived as a way for astronauts to see and control the station arm, for example when grappling arriving spacecraft, or to watch astronauts during a spacewalk. One of the fringe benefits was providing a tremendous vantage point for watching the Earth, as the photos below show.
(All images photo credit: NASA)
NASA Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson enjoying the view of Earth from the Cupola aboard the ISS.
Cupola on the Earth oriented side of the International Space Station, with the window shields closed.
Astronaut seen inside the Cupola attached to the International Space Station.
Astronaut at the robotic controls in the Cupola.
An astronaut in the Cupola aboard the ISS, looking down (or sideways) on Earth.
Cairo and the Nile delta photographed at night from the Cupola onboard the ISS.
NASA spacewalker hanging on to the outside of the cupola while floating above Earth.