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International Space Station Now Has New View of World


Africa's Sahara Desert, as seen from the International Space Station's new seven-windowed cupola

Africa's Sahara Desert, as seen from the International Space Station's new seven-windowed cupola

Crew members of the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour opened the shutters on the International Space Station's new observation deck Wednesday, revealing a spectacular view of Earth.

This is Africa's Sahara Desert, as seen from the International Space Station's new seven-windowed cupola.

Astronauts opened the shutters of this new picture window in space before dawn Wednesday.

Endeavour blasted off from Florida to the Space Station last week, carrying the cupola, attached to the new module called Tranquility.

Spacewalkers bolted the cupola to its permanent Earth-facing position earlier this week.

But the shutters stayed closed until after astronauts removed the windows' protective covers during a nearly six-hour spacewalk Wednesday.

Bob Dempsey, at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, is the lead International Space Station flight director for this mission.

"Sitting in my chair in mission control, looking out at the view was just spectacular," he said. "Astronauts who are accustomed to views that you and I cannot really describe were moved to tears when they looked out the windows of the cupola for the first time tonight."

Others at mission control shared similar sentiments.

Dempsey said the cupola conjured up images of the spacecraft in the famed Star Wars movies.

"It looks a little bit like the Millennium Falcon, but an incredible view," Dempsey said. "I know we have already had one photo tweeted from the International Space Station on Twitter."

Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi sent that image. NASA says more panoramic pictures from inside the cupola should be available this week.

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