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. With the Cupola attached, ISS assembly reached 85 percent completeness. The Cupola is the largest window ever used in space.
The Cupola provides an observation and work area for the ISS crew giving visibility to support the control of the space station remote manipulator system and general external viewing of Earth, celestial objects and visiting vehicles. Its name derives from Italian word cupola, which means “dome”. The Cupola project was started by NASA and Boeing, but canceled due to budget cuts. A barter agreement between NASA and the ESA resulted in the Cupola’s development being resumed in 1998 by the ESA. 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. The Cupola is berthed onto the down-facing port of Node 3—the final of three modules, including Node 1 and Node 2.
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