The shutters are open on the International Space Station’s new observation deck, which one astronaut describes as a “bay window to the world,” and the views are stunning. The centerpiece of the “Cupola,” as it’s called, is a 31-inch diameter circular aperture that is the largest space window ever built. The astronauts on board the ISS now have “a view of the entire globe,” the station’s commander says. “Absolutely incredible."
A NASA administrator tries to put the magnitude of the window’s awesomeness in perspective. "The astronauts, who are accustomed to views that you and I can't really describe, were moved to tears,” he tells Space.com, “because the panorama is just spectacular.” In addition to breathtaking vistas of Earth—the first photo beamed down from the station shows the Sahara desert—the 360 degree field of view will allow astronauts inside to monitor the approach of spacecraft and the movements of the station’s robotic arm with their own eyes. (Read more International Space Station stories.)