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Talk about a room with a view! Just take a moment and ponder this image taken on board the International Space station, from the recently added "Cupola" observation deck. To be honest, referring to Cupola as an observation deck is a little misleading. Measuring only about 5 feet in height and 10 feet in diameter, it would be nearly impossible for more than a few people to fit inside.

Cupola was built for a simple purpose- to allow astronauts better visual control over devices associated with the International Space station (such as exterior robotic arms, incoming supply vessels, etc). Space explorers, like meteorologists, had long overlooked the singular practicality of large windows. After all, it's a whole lot easier to work in space when you can see more than a few feet in front of you. And Cupola is equipped with a full computer workstation, allowing astronauts to conduct experiments with greater efficiency.

On a purely aesthetic level, the Cupola provides inspiring views that have reinvigorated our passion for space travel. Seeing Earth from the quiet of space gives a perspective unmatched by a computer screen. The featured photo shows astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson. Originally a chemist from Arcadia, California, Dyson logged over 188 days in space. Yet, she still appreciates the awesome power of simply "looking out the window".

For some reason, this picture reminds me of our old carport back home. For those of you more accustomed to garages, a carport is similar to a garage- minus the walls. In reality, carports more closely resemble a picnic shelter (similar to those found in parks). Carports were quite popular in the 60's and 70's. Our family home was a typical "ranch style" house, with a brick carport on the front.

When I was a child, dad decided to enclose the carport to make a sun-room. It was pretty neat to watch the trucks haul-in panes of glass, sealing the edges flush against the brick. But the finished product was even more impressive. I felt like a 5-year old version of Captain Nemo, gazing out our newly created "portholes". Even though I played outside for hours each day, every tree somehow looked different when viewed through the sun-room. This was most likely due to the tint of the glass, but there was a little bit of child's imagination mixed in there as well.

Still, nothing compares to Tracy Dyson's view...


By: Jerry Jackson